Getting to the Core of the Matter: A historical materialist study of the apple industry in Nova Scotia, 1605-1980
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The story of the apple in Nova Scotia between 1605 and 1980 shows how agriculture shapes our world, and our relationship to that world. This paper reviews the failure of the apple industry, and provides insights on how to go forward. Agricultural failure, defined as a large contraction in production, is as traumatic for a rural area as a major plant shutdown is for an urban area. Although agricultural failure may coincide with unexpected weather or environmental conditions, careful examination usually reveals broader structural problems at its root. This is certainly the case with the collapse of the Nova Scotia apple industry after World War II. Therefore, this paper asks the question: Why did the industry fail, despite significant geographic advantages and a promising early history? The apple was a formative and integral part of this province’s development. As such, when guided by a historical materialist methodology, the apple opens a broader discussion of historical developments, structures of power, and the human-nature relationship in Nova Scotia. This paper concludes with a discussion about positive options for the Nova Scotia apple industry based on a different set of values, a new approach to world markets, and a more sustainable relationship with nature.