Terroir is essentially a “sense of place.” It is embodied in certain characteristic qualities of the local environment that have an influence on the production of a product. (Wikipedia)” Literally, it “gives the food from a given region a particular taste by virtue of what the soil produces. (Wright)1” However, it is more than just soil and climate. The trend towards locally based agriculture and food production is “tightly linked to a place’s social and economic development (Lyson),” and thus people create individually expressive connections to certain foods. The civic food movement is inextricably linked with terroir, as a sense of self-identification emerges from collective and sustainable gardening and farming. The dominant food system in place is run by large corporations that coordinate the production and processing of food. This has enabled centralized and standardized systems of food production and consumption, and has largely taken away the strong connection of place that farmers and consumers alike feel with their food. Food has the unique ability to excite both through flavor and texture. It can transport you to a “certain place. (http://www.wkkf.org/knowledge-center/resources/2006/03/terroir-the-taste-of-place.aspx)” It could be anything from a childhood memory of picking apples with your father to the delightfully acidic taste of the local orange juice at the market around the corner.
“Your flavor memory might have a more objective basis.(WKKF above)” Foods possess identifiable flavors that are products of the specific place and environment in which they’re grown. ‘Agricultural homogeneity” takes this “taste of place” away (WKKF above). There are many benefits of civic agriculture, the terror being one of many. Identification of quality, healthful food is one prerequisite for success. Growing concern for food safety is another plus of this movement, because knowledge of the intermediary steps from farm to table, and production methods adds to the health and economic value of local food. The strong link between the place, taste, and sentimentality of terroir adds to the potential of “civic agriculture (DeLind)”, and as we have seen, people form their own unique bonds with the products they consume. Food and memory are linked by our senses. A food product with terroir is one that induces an “involuntary memory of its origin.2” Speaking on wine, Randall Graham proclaims, “A great terroir wine will provoke a feeling that I can only describe as akin to homesickness, whether or not it is for home that may only exist in your imagination. (Graham 2006)” Taste is highly subjective, determined by “cultural evolution and subjective preference.”2 “Terroir is an expression of a distinct relationship between land and the soil and those who have worked the land in order to produce the food.”2 Furthermore, it reflects the cultural traditions that have evolved in a particular region. Multinational corporations homogenizing and monopolizing the food industry threatens this sense of nostalgia for space in the realm of food production. Terroir both an expression of culture and place, and in order for us to save this strong sentimental link in our society, we must revitalize and both politically and socio-economically support civic agriculture and the local food movement.
Laura DeLind, “Place, Work, and Civic Agriculture: Common Fields for Cultivation” in Agriculture and Human Values (2002)
Graham, Randall. “Phenomenology of Terroir.” Annual Symposium on Neuroaesthetics. UC Berkley. 21 Jan. 2006.
Thomas A. Lyson. Civic Agriculture: Reconnecting Farm, Food, and Community. Medford, MA: Tufts University Press, 2012. Project MUSE. Web. 9 May. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.