Sideline and lifeline: The cultural economy of maple syrup production

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Abstract

Why do people engage in economically minor resource production activities? This field study of Vermont and Quebec maple syrup producers and their households and enterprises examines the diversity of motivations and concerns in contemporary maple syrup production. Farmers, former farmers, and non-farmers all produce maple syrup. The concept of embeddedness provides a framework for understanding how producers understand their involvement with maple syrup, by highlighting the social and cultural context of economic action. An embeddedness perspective emphasizes how other work activities, household relations, the surrounding community, and the resource environment shape the possibilities for and understandings of minor resource production activities. Maple syrup generally only supplemented the household income of the 76 producers interviewed. Producers articulated a cultural economy of syrup production centered on its contribution to overall livelihood, cultural identity, and lifestyle. Reasons included managing risks, making seasonal use of land and labor resources, developing a retirement income, demonstrating a rural, agrarian identity, and strengthening family and community ties. Implications for policy include the place of minor resource production activities in securing rural livelihoods and providing cultural anchors in rural regions experiencing demographic and economic change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-532
Number of pages26
JournalRural Sociology
Volume63
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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