Harvesting Agricultural Products on Public Lands

Authors: Karin Patzke*, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Agricultural Geography, Rural Geography
Keywords: public lands, apples, community organization, alternative food practices
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Bacchus, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Harvesting agricultural products on public lands is a cultural enterprise in Central New York. So-called "marginal" agricultural lands were claimed by the National Forest Service in the early 20th century and transitioned to public lands in this region of the state. However, despite the transition from private to public lands, the abandoned farmsteads and orchards remain and provide foragers (who use their intimate knowledge of back trails and markers) with a surplus of goods, most notably apples and pears in the early fall. In this presentation, I report on initial collaborative ethnographic research to highlight key concepts from interviews and participant observation. The "good neighbor" policy of conservation officers who work in the forests provide a unique opportunity for neighboring communities to harvest agricultural products from these areas. Additionally, the technologies used to preserve harvests, including apple presses and freezer spaces, are shared amongst social groups. Community members informally organize around harvest and preserving events to share labor, as well as surplus. As an emerging research project, I look forward to feedback from geographers who have more experience in this kind of work and in this region.

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