Omakätisen ruoantuotannon monilajiset taloudet

Savinotko, Pieta

Small-scale food production for domestic use or local markets is common in Finland. In particular, edible gardening and berry- and mushroom-picking are part of everyday life in many households and other small communities; for example, honey is typically produced in small apiaries. In this thesis I examine this phenomenon as an economic activity. Drawing on the theoretical and methodological framework of diverse economies (Gibson-Graham 2006a, 2006b), I understand the economy as an open and non-predefined multiplicity, and I concentrate on situated ways of doing economies in everyday practices of food production. I especially focus on how economies are enacted as more-than-human in small-scale food production and food self-provisioning. In food production, the human and the non-human are intertwined in particularly tangible ways as non-human beings are grown, raised, collected and processed to materially sustain human bodies. To analyse economies’ more-than-human aspects, I draw not only on diverse economies scholarship but also on feminist post-anthropocentric research traditions. From these starting points I ask first what kinds of multispecies economies are enacted in small-scale food production; second, how small-scale food production can be analysed as multispecies economies; and third, how examining small-scale food production opens up new ways to conceptualise multispecies economies. 

This thesis consists of four articles, plus an extensive summary that provides a background for the articles and compiles the research findings. In the articles, I examine everyday practices of community-based vegetable farming, small-scale beekeeping, and household-centred mushroom-picking, as well as small-scale food production as part of a Nordic welfare state. Empirically the study is based on ethnographic research data, which I collected mainly through participant observation and interviews among practitioners of the above-mentioned forms of food production in different parts of Finland. I analysed the data using qualitative content analysis techniques, thematisation, and close reading. The analysis was guided by the strategy of reading for difference, which I took from the diverse economies framework and implemented in my research in the form of thick description, counterhegemonic reading and opening up to contradictions. Reading for difference is a performative strategy of knowledge production that aims to withdraw from hegemonising ways of knowing about the economy, thereby opening up to the unknown diversity of economies and their endlessly complex, more-than-human relationality. 

In the research, I analyse the thick multispecies interrelationality of everyday practices of small-scale food production and food self-provisioning, as well as the multiple meanings they bear for the practitioners’ livelihood and well-being. In addition, the research surfaces more-than-human, situated ways of knowing that are enacted in small-scale food production. The research framework of multispecies economies construes small-scale food production and food self-provisioning as ways of actively enacting economies and as unpredictable, non-innocent processes of more-than-human becoming. Based on my ethnographically situated analysis, I develop the concept of keskinäinen toimeentulo, which refers to the ongoing relationality of life-sustaining practices – the entanglement of making a living and getting along with more-than-human others. My research proposes the concept as a tool to examine the multispeciesness of everyday economies as an ethical question. 

The research participates in social scientific discussions of the economy as a material-semiotic and relational phenomenon by coupling the diverse economies framework with feminist post-anthropocentric approaches, and by implementing them in empirical research. Through ethnographic analysis and methodological work, the research makes small-scale food production and food self-provisioning understandable as multispecies economies in the making, and through the concept of keskinäinen toimeentulo it examines the complex multispecies relationality of livelihood production. Altogether, my research reflects on the ethico-political significance of everyday hands-on practices of small-scale food production, and the epistemic practices of research concerning them, for the enactment of liveable futures.

Suggested citation

Savinotko, Pieta 2022. Omakätisen ruoantuotannon monilajiset taloudet ("Multispecies economies in practicing small-scale food production"). PhD Thesis. Tampere: Tampere University.