The commons as socio-economic resources for small-scale and subsistence farmers
Elisabeth Kosnik (University of Graz)
Paper short abstract:
I investigate subsistence farming as a lifestyle choice in contemporary post-industrial societies. The commons (natural, social, cultural) contribute significantly to their well-being, as well as their economic subsistence, somewhat contradicting their lifestyle beyond the mainstream.
Paper long abstract:
In my ongoing ethnographic research I investigate subsistence farming as a lifestyle choice in contemporary post-industrial societies: the voluntary lifestyles of self-provisioning, or production for consumption, in particular of foodstuffs and other natural resources. This research is based on participant observation, interviews, and the analysis of autobiographic texts written by subsistence farmers, investigating the agents of this trend, their motivations, and their multiple strategies of subsistence. First results demonstrate that the commons (not only natural, but also the social, as well as cultural or knowledge commons) contribute significantly to their social well-being, as well as their economic subsistence. Natural commons are the basis of much of their food production, from seeds to gathering wild foods, hunting, fishing and trapping. But subsistence farmers also draw on, as well as distribute, cultural and knowledge commons - also known as "traditional knowledge" or "cultural heritage". On their farms they increasingly offer seminars and workshops on various topics, from how to forage for food, to how to weave a wicker baskets or how to use a scythe. For many subsistence farmers the commons are therefore not only a significant resource for their immediate subsistence but also for their economic strategies, maybe somewhat contradicting their lifestyle beyond the mainstream.
The rural home as a site of production