Home production of dairy products in the central part of the Balkans: between rural self-sufficiency and (informal) selling practices
Ivaylo Markov (Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum – BAS)
Paper short abstract:
The paper focuses on the contemporary home production of dairy products examining it both as a practice of self-sufficiency and as commercial goods, often selled informally to the consumers. The research is based on ethnographic fieldwork and case studies from Western Bulgaria and Eastern Serbia.
Paper long abstract:
The production of dairy products (yogurt, cheese, kashkaval etc.) was a traditional activity in the rural homes on the Balkans. Emergence of large-scale dairy plants during the socialist period in some of the Balkan states gradually replaced the small-scale commercial dairies from the previous period and destroyed the knowledge and practices of making home-made dairy products for family use. The proposed paper, however, focuses on the transition period toward market-driven economy, started in the 1990s. It is based on ethnographic fieldwork examining cases from Western Bulgaria and Eastern Serbia. The free market economy stimulates private enterprises and food's production decentralization and diversification, but the studied period is also characterized by a deep economical crisis and emerging distrust in the quality of industrial produced food. In the late 1990s and early 2000s home-made dairy products make a remarkable come-back both in the countryside and larger towns. It is an economic reaction to the rising prices - the practice of home self-sufficiency becomes an important strategy for subsistence. Many rural families also see a possibility for additional income selling yogurt and cheese often on street stands directly in front of their homes. Simultaneously, the bloom of home-made dairy products is also a mark of consumers' criticism: they are considered cheaper and of better quality than the industrial mass products. The emergence of eco-orientation after the middle of the 2000s strengthens these preferences. What motivates the urban consumers purchase home-made dairy products is already their assumption that they are more delicious, healthier, and fresher.
The rural home as a site of production