The Periphery in the Core: Cider Production, Migration and Agrarian Citizenship in the Pacific Northwest

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 17:50
Oral Presentation
Anelyse WEILER, University of Toronto, Canada
While historical cider production in North America has long been tied to the popular imaginary of the frontier and settler-colonialism, contemporary craft cider has breathed new life into small-scale local agrarian economies grappling with the pressures of global capitalism. Liquor laws in the Pacific Northwest have supported the establishment of apple orchards and land-based cideries in rural communities, thereby enabling livelihoods for young orchardists, who are often women. Geographical indication of locality and place has served as a vital element in the viability of this industry, and various appeals to ‘heritage’ likewise bolster the legitimacy of a fledgling cider culture. Craft cider producers often mobilize the idea that the unique taste of a given region owes to the apples that grow in that region, including heirloom cider apples. But the narrative of cider’s geographical rootedness obscures the racialized, non-local migrant farm workers whose labour brings into being the local agrarian landscape. Their labour is not valorized as part of the ‘craft’ of craft cider production, and their living and working conditions often contrast with the romantic agrarianism underlying local cider’s geographical indication. Furthermore, deploying a narrow and romantic agrarian heritage belies the ongoing history of cider’s fraught relationship with local Indigenous peoples and lands. In this paper, I draw on data from interviews with cider producers, farm workers and industry experts in British Columbia and Washington state. I investigate how each set of actors relates to the agrarian landscape through the process of growing local apples, and how their racial, class, and immigration status shapes their relationship with the natural world. I use the Marxist concept of metabolic rift to consider how human-nature relationships in specific agrarian geographies can inform efforts to reverse the capitalist exploitation of both people and lands.