Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date

Spring 2019


Why do people farm? The answers are increasingly unclear given the heightened pressure of agricultural consolidation on small family farms. When profit margins are thin or even non-existent it is necessary to look at how other factors influence this group of people – particularly the social and cultural ties within and amongst communities that inspire people to remain in a profession which is not particularly lucrative This paper explores conceptualizations of social, cultural, and natural wealth as rationales for continuing in agricultural work, by focusing on maple syrup producers in Maine. At the small and medium-scale, maple syrup production cannot provide substantial income and yet people continue to participate in a time- and labor-intensive activity with marginal returns. This thesis therefore argues that maple sugaring makes an interesting case study through which to explore the various reasons that people take part in small-scale agricultural work with minimal financial benefits.

Drawing on a literature review and 10 semi-structured interviews with both multigenerational and first-generation maple syrup producers in Maine this thesis explores the reasons these producers have chosen to continue or begin maple syrup production, focusing on how the social connections, family history, cultural influence, and ecological factors have impacted their decisions surrounding this business. We argue that while monetary consideration may not be as large of a factor in these decisions, maple syrup producers point to a whole array of motivations which suggest that their returns are linked to human relationship and connections to culture and place.

Included in

Anthropology Commons