Accepted paper:

Traditional olive cultivation as sustainable agricultural practice, boutique economy, and ethnic rapprochement


James Verinis (Salve Regina University)

Paper short abstract:

A new cycle of olive production is emerging in Greece in response to threats to traditional cultivation. A reassessment of the relationships between Greek and global interests in sustainable agriculture, boutique and commodity markets, as well as among Greek and non-Greek farmers has begun.

Paper long abstract:

Greek archaeologist Yannis Hamilakis (1999:48) writes that the production of olive oil in Bronze Age Crete was not a routine of agricultural practice; These '[were] cycles of consumption intensification as a response to social processes, [not simply a] Mediterranean cultivation regime' (50). The response in Greece to threats to traditional small-scale olive production regimes on semi-mountainous land with limited mechanical means in today's world of globalized and intensified agriculture takes many forms. Between land abandonment and increases in scale and intensity is also a refusal to allow such traditional olive cultivation regimes to become extinct. A renewed focus on maintaining now ancient agricultural practices often takes precedence over conventional rural development paradigms of the European core, especially as such development options become increasingly impossible in the current economic climate. Ethnic rapprochement amongst Greek and non-Greek farmers who now struggle together in these rural 'backwaters' is also an important component of this response. As Raymond Williams (1973) has written, small-scale, 'traditional', or 'backward' rural practices often seem to remain today despite progression in agricultural modernization and rural development; 'What is really significant is this particular kind of reaction to the fact of change, and this has more real and more interesting social causes.' (35). As in Bronze Age Crete this new cycle of traditional olive oil production is a particular response, weaving together disparate interests in small-scale sustainable agricultural practices, niche boutique as well as commodity markets, and Greek and non-Greek farmers in defiance of other fates.

panel Food005
Olive futures: ethnographies of a delicious kind