This dissertation draws on a case study of emerging craft cider production in the U.S. and Canadian Pacific Northwest. It is guided by the overarching question: To what extent has the contemporary craft cider industry in the Pacific Northwest constrained or enabled agrarian change in land, labour, livelihoods and consumer embodiment? Through a regional analysis encompassing British Columbia, Washington State and Oregon, I draw on ethnographic data from participant observation and in-depth interviews with actors across the craft cider industry from 2017-2019. This dissertation is organized into three distinct analytic chapters. First, I find that while craft cider has helped buffer some farm producers against the volatility of selling raw fruit to large commodity markets, the benefits of this value-added niche market do not widely support continued primary production or farm succession. Some young cidermakers wish to maintain a connection to agrarianism but are shifting away from full-time farming due to lifestyle preferences and political-economic constraints, as exemplified by token forms of on-site production that carry great symbolic weight. Given the craft industry’s emphasis on elevating performances of manual labour intensity and ethical ingredient sourcing, a second analytic chapter focuses on how cidermakers account for the labour of predominantly racialized (im)migrant farmworkers. I find that actors in the craft cider industry engage with inequalities affecting farmworkers through structural obfuscation, ideological justification, and ambivalence or critique. This analysis illuminates both barriers and opportunities to strengthen equity for farmworkers as part of movements to advance food system sustainability. Third, I investigate how actors who are attempting to “tune” people’s tastes away from industrial-scale production navigate the contradictions of their simultaneous dependence on an industrial food system. I find that cidermakers attempt to re-tune consumers’ tastes by appeasing consumers, whose bodies reflect the influence of food system industrialization in the form of taste preferences. Simultaneously, cidermakers endeavour to ease consumers into more diverse possibilities for taste and ecologically resilient farming. Taken as a whole, this dissertation advances scholarly understandings of rural livelihoods, labour in alternative food initiatives, and embodied social change.
PhD Candidate Anelyse Weiler will be joining the University of Victoria’s Department of Sociology as an Assistant Professor. Before her new position begins in July, she will be defending her dissertation on 12 June. Supervised by Josée Johnston with committee members Hannah Wittman (UBC) and Jennifer Chun, her dissertation is entitled, The Periphery in the Core: Cider Production, Agrarian Livelihoods and Tuning Taste in the Pacific Northwest. Here is the abstract for Anelyse‘s dissertation:
Anelyse‘s position forms part of UVic Sociology’s research and teaching specialization in Ecology, Global Issues, and Social Movements. She looks forward to engaging in collaborative and interdisciplinary research focused on food system sustainability, along with labour and migration conditions for workers across the food chain. Next year, she will be teaching classes in qualitative methods along with work and employment.