Agnese Cimdiņa (University of Latvia)
This article challenges the understanding of economic activity as based on economic efficiency by indicating that economic development guidelines set out to modernize rural areas, enhance productivity and introduce common standards for agricultural production more often than not encounter complex relationships embedded in local cultural context and social environment. The article examines the concept of embeddedness and argues that relations in which rural economic practices and decisions are embedded have culturally constructed meanings. Several agro-activities (such as, for instance, bath-house services, home beer-brewing and organic farming) are not primarily guided by economic efficiency, but rather by culturally construed awareness of one’s own identity and that of others, of certain values, of social and natural environment (including one’s home place), of continuity, all amounting to a certain vision of a good life . Thus a study of rural economic practices and agro-activities should be based on the analysis of culturally constructed values, social ties, as well as human relations with nature and meanings attached to them. The present theoretical reflection on the embeddedness of agro-activities is substantiated by empirical examples from farms in Vidzeme (one of the regions of Latvia). These practices were studied during a long-term field research in 2010 and 2011.