1st Edition

Revaluing Horticultural Skills The Knowledge and Labour of Growing Food

By Hannah Pitt Copyright 2025
    240 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book highlights the value and skill of horticultural through stories of food cultivation. It examines the difficulties that arise from the perception that this type of activity is unskilled and the importance of acknowledging the talent involved in growing food.

    The book provides a rare focus on horticulture as a vital part of agri-food systems, offering a social science perspective on the sector’s current and past characteristics. It presents new primary research into horticultural work and workers across UK food growing, using close attention to their abilities to highlight the depth of their knowledge and learning. This is set in the context of global agri-food regimes which press producers to seek ever more precarious labour, undermining food justice. By examining these in the context of internationally connected supply chains, it characterises injustices which recur globally, and across food system labour. The conceptual argument starts from an ecological definition of skill as social practice embedded within this socio-economic landscape, developing this perspective beyond its association with artisanal contexts. Together the empirical and conceptual material highlight the fallacy of discourse which tends to individualise skill and the challenges around recruitment into food production. To counter this the book proposes a more collective approach to fostering healthy skills ecosystems, reaching towards commoning through examples of horticultural communities seeking this in the meantime.

    It will appeal to postgraduates, researchers and, professionals interested in food systems, their workers, and related topics of horticultural education, training and human resources, labour, migration and politics of injustice. It draws on perspectives from rural studies, human geography and sociology, and connects with international debates in these fields. Food focused scholars and activists will find data and insights to support calls for better work in food systems.

    Chapter 1 Introduction: The value of horticultural work 


    Chapter 2 Global horticulture: Growing cheap food and precarious work 


    Chapter 3 The roots of ‘unskilled’ work in UK horticulture  


    Chapter 4 Who picks for Britain?


    Chapter 5 Knowing good growing


    Chapter 6 Becoming a good grower 


    Chapter 7 The health of horticulture’s skills ecosystems  


    Chapter 8 Conclusion: Revaluing horticultural work and workers together




    Hannah Pitt is a Lecturer in Environmental Geography at Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning, where she specialises in researching and teaching food system sustainability, with a focus on human-plant relations.