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Agroecology as spatial analytic: almond boom precarities in California and Spain

Authors: Emily Reisman*,
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: agriculture, political ecology, commodity studies
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In the last 25 years global almond production has more than tripled. This growth is led by California, where water, pollinator and nutrient intensive almond cultivation has expanded despite the mounting precarities of rising water stress, unstable honeybee health, and collapsing or contaminated aquifers. Almonds in Spain, the largest producer globally until the 1970s, present a stark contrast. Widely recognized as the most rustic and resilient crop, the rainfed, wild-pollinated almond has long served as a pillar of low-input, diversified production by small farms along the Mediterranean upland coast. The current almond boom is rapidly shifting geographies of production in both places, from North to South in California and from the coasts inland in Spain. These shifts make production both more “efficient” and more precarious. Booms and busts are a chronic feature of agrarian capitalism, often provoking geographic reorganizations of production across significant distances. Most agroecological scholarship examines practices at the farm scale, details diversified systems, and presents in-depth analysis of specific communities relatively fixed in space. What might agroecological thinking bring to the study of regional shifts in the production of a single commodity as it transitions across the landscape? In this paper, I make a case for agroecology as a spatial analytic by tracing shifting ecologies of almond production in both California and Spain during an unprecedented boom in global production. In doing so I argue agroecology offers a powerful alternative to efficiency for spatializing agricultural sustainability.

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