Migration (agriculture)

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Seasonal migration is very common form of Migration in agricultural cycles. In pre-agricultural hunter-gatherer societies, seasonal migration, or a nomadic life style, is the norm, following biological migration of game animals or successive maturation of wild food plants. With the development of agriculture, there was a tendency to settle where the crops were grown and stored, so periodic migration was reduced but not eliminated.

Pastoral migration

In dry areas of the world, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, whole villages may grow crops when there is moisture, then become herders, moving with their cattle to follow water availability during the dry season at their home base.

In mountainous areas, seasonal migration may involve moving sheep, goats, yaks or cattle to higher elevations during summer or the dry season to escape heat and find more moisture and forage.

Migrant labor

Human labor often moves with fruit harvest, or to other crops that require manual picking. In many countries, the poorest segment of the population moves with the harvest. More recently, migratory labor has moved from poorer to richer countries. While the culture of many crops has become entirely mechanized, others, such as fruits and vegetables still require manual labor, at least for harvest, and some, such as tobacco, still need manual labor for its culture. Much of this work was once provided by housewives and students, but these workers are less available now, and farms are larger. Today migratory workers provide most of the hand labor required in agriculture in the United States and some other countries. Labor contractors arrange with farmers to provide the necessary help at the seasonal time, often with foreign nationals whose employment opportunities are more limited in their home areas.

Migrant laborers have often been exploited; leading to efforts to improve their lot. In 1962 Cesar Chavez organized the United Farm Workers Organization - a labor union, and after several years of strikes and successfully signed contracts with a number of large California (U.S. state) grape growers. The UFW also helped enact a state collective bargaining law in California. In the US. The Immigration and Naturalization Service has sometimes raided farms to check on squalid housing conditions. In some cases the raids backfired and closing down labor camps forced the laborers to camp in the woods under even worse conditions. Migrant laborers who enter a country illegally are usually unwilling to assert their rights, as they risk deportation or other penalties.

Custom contractors

A number of migratory agricultural entrepreneurs move with their combines and trucks to follow the wheat harvest in the United States, beginning in Texas in early June and ending in the Dakotas or in Canada in late fall, as the harvest season moves north. Some crop dusters are also migratory, following seasonal patterns of need. Unlike most migratory labor, these elements are well paid.

Migratory beekeeping

Most commercial beekeepers in the US are migratory, spending winter in warm climates and moving with the spring to follow the bloom, or pollination contracts for almonds, apples, blueberries, and other fruits and vegetables that require bees for pollination. Migratory beekeeping also is practiced in France, Spain, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, and to a lesser extent, in other nations.


  • Kenneth C. Burt, "The Search for a Civic Voice: Califlornia Latino Politics," Regina Books, 2007
  • Following the Bloom by Douglas Whynott (ISBN13: 9781585422807) - An account of modern migratory beekeeping in the US