Women Working on a Fair Flower Farm in Ecuador: An Ethnographic Study


Despite a history of worker exploitation and environmental degradation, today, the cut-flower industry is striving for ethical production practices. Ecuador is leading the way in this regard, and one farm, Fairtrade-certified Nevado Roses, appears to be a shining example. In 2012, I set out to conduct ethnographic research centering workers' perspectives about labor conditions and life as Fairtrade rose cultivators at Nevado Roses. I wanted to understand how women, who comprise the majority of flower workers, fare on a farm with socially and environmentally sustainable policies. The research confirmed the benefits of ethical production practices, but also revealed that Fairtrade production does not alleviate workers' struggles to balance work and family. This case describes the research methods I employed, from the inception of the research idea to the final stages of analysis. It highlights the challenges encountered and choices made at all stages of the project to give readers a behind-the-scenes view of ethnographic research. I focus attention on feminist research methods and the relationships between the researcher and the research subjects.

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