University of Tasmania

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Endogenous regional development: cottage industries in Tasmanian agriculture

posted on 2023-05-25, 14:05 authored by Gralton, A
This study explores a ‘culture industry’, that of the artisanal food industry in Tasmanian agriculture. Food production and consumption is a highly controversial, socio-political process, whereby diverse values and beliefs, levels of resources and interests struggle for survival. The resultant manifestation of this struggle – in the form of products, production methods and actions – stand testament to the diversity. This thesis demonstrates the politicised nature of food production by examining the paradox of enterprise expansion while retaining a number of identities/tags associated with small scale food businesses and their products (i.e. cottage industry, artisanality and quality food). The implications of these findings for the development of the artisanal food industry are also explored.

Two phases of data collection were involved in exploring these issues. A first phase was a scoping study involving document analysis, semi-structured interviews with local knowledgeables and a range of cottage industries, and initial fieldwork. The second phase involved a case study analysis with three small-scale agricultural cottage enterprises (SACEs) and three that had expanded (ESACEs). The case studies primarily involved in-depth, semi-structured interviews.

The research found that the cottage industry identity was meaningful as applied to the SACEs, but also that many of the defining characteristics of a cottage industry were also applicable to the ESACEs. Artisanality was found to be an appropriately assigned label in both the small-scale and expanded enterprises, with a set of specific characteristics, approaches and the principals’ role as ‘artisanal entrepreneur’ authenticating the ESACEs and their products as artisanal. It was found that the enterprises under study aligned with Ray’s (2003) notion of the cultural approach to Endogenous Regional Development (ERD) and particular place and space characteristics; whilst ‘the short food supply chain’, a ‘collective form of social action’, assisted in facilitating the preservation of these associated identities/tags. In examining the retention of food quality meanings upon expansion, the same set of characteristics and qualities that are potentially used and applicable to the SACEs in defining quality were also found to be relevant in the ESACEs.

In examining the cottage industry, artisanal and quality identities, this research demonstrated that there are more similarities than differences between the SACEs and v ESACEs, and that growth can occur without necessarily compromising values and actions; all of which enable identity preservation and value-adding potentialities. Moreover, the current use of the ‘short food supply chain’ holds significant promise for this industry as it assists in building relationships and trust between processors and consumers who share similar values and beliefs surrounding food production and consumption. In so doing, food products are heavily laden with eco-social information, which can assist in challenging unsustainable agrifood production and related practice.





Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


University of Tasmania

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