Food & Culture


          The human need for food is fundamental and universal. Most people in the world eat some kind of food every day, with some getting too little and others maybe too much. Food, however, is not just a biological imperative. People everywhere experience food through the lenses of culture. With our economic structures, political and social organization, inventiveness and pursuit of knowledge, spiritual beliefs, artistic expressions, and complex relationships to nature, we craft ideas and tools that mediate our relationship to foods. Thinking about food, therefore, leads us into complicated realms of webbed connections.

          At BSG Maple & Marine Farm, we're fascinated by food as a venue to explore these connections. What is relatively new to our era is how questions of sustainability are woven throughout. As agroforesters harvesting in a wild biome and processing and marketing variance in maple syrups, we are particularly interested in how sustainability expresses as relationships between farmers, harvesters and consumers. Our work has compelled us to argue for the value of restoring and building substantive and creative direct communication (1) among these players based on the synergy between variance (2) in all harvests – whether from agroforestry, agriculture, or fisheries— and enhancement of biocultural diversity (3).

1: Direct Communication  and transparent exchange between harvesters and consumers help link production to consumption and is necessary to ensure the vitality of a harvest. Only by building a knowledgeable customer base, fostered with curiosity, can variance be protected. These encounters, which may begin locally but can also develop at a distance, are necessary to sustain the nuanced possibilities and challenges connected to particular foods, locales, communities, histories, and ecosystems.

2:   Variance in a crop can including many things: the natural science of the food, such as basic biology and/or chemistry, varietals, the life cycle, and processing activities; the environmental aspects of its source in field, forest or water and energy used to harvest it; the social and historical dimensions that give it meaning; the ecosystem services it relates to; and the livelihoods of the farmers and harvesters who grow or collect it.

3:   Biocultural diversity means that biological and cultural diversity are inextricably linked: “they are co-evolved, interdependent, and mutually reinforcing.” (UNESCO 2008)

Variance harvesting/processing  linked to biocultural diversity is central to effective community carbon management and therefore climate change mitigation.

          For more about frameworks that shape and guide our work in these poignant times of cultural and biological change, click on the Foods & Biocultural Diversity Essay link. You may also peruse the resource page to view our selection of materials and websites that relate to this topic.

          To learn more about variance practices at BSG Farm, you may also go to Maple Science & Heritage or read a paper on Variance Harvesting/Processing and the Price-Point Spread: How Customers and their Maple Farmers can Co-Generate Sustainable Agriculture and a Fair Wage (found at Presentations & Workshops).