As specialisation moved forward: Labour and farms in the Vaucluse (1945-1958)

By Niccolò Mignemi

This paper investigates the increasing specialisation of fruit and vegetable producers from a labour perspective. It focuses on the case of the Vaucluse region between 1945 and the end of the 1950s. The data from the first farm census are used as a starting point to reassess the contrasting pairs (household/wage, permanent/seasonal, local/foreign) that can traditionally be identified in the organisation of agricultural work. Fruit and vegetable farming is particularly interesting because of its dependence on the capacity to reconcile two requirements. On the one hand, these crops rely on intensive mobilisation of labour for as long over the year as possible. On the other hand, their production requires a flexible system of employment capable of providing a rapid and timely response in order to preserve the quality and profitability of the harvests against the risks connected to markets or bad weather. While the family was confirmed as the primary source of full-time and temporary workers, the archives of the Commission paritaire départementale de travail agricole allow us to examine in greater depth the crucial role of wage labour. The debates on the diversity of statuses and remuneration systems then become an opportunity to explore how gender, age and qualification shaped working conditions. They broaden our understanding of the new tensions caused by the acceleration of the exodus from rural areas and from farming as an occupation.

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