This paper describes the labour management system applied since around 2005 on farms accounting for the bulk of the output of the Kenyan cut flower sector, and provides an analysis of the foundations of this system. Using categories drawn from convention theory, this system is characterized in terms of specific approaches to hiring, training and promotion; labour retention; work organization and worker deployment; payment systems and supervision, as well as to collective bargaining. In convention theory terms, the combination of approaches identified in Kenya embodies a mixture of ‘industrial’ and ‘civic’ orientations – in contrast to both more traditional paternalist and unbridled market-oriented ones. The material and political foundations of this ‘industrial–civic compromise’ are explored at length, with particular attention to stabilization of the production system (in the case of industrial elements) and political and demand-side developments (in the case of civic elements). The paper concludes by considering the generalizability of these findings to other large-scale agricultural sectors in developing countries.