a1 Environmental Studies Program, Denison University, Granville, OH 43023, USA.
a2 Great Lakes Science Center, 601 Erieside Ave., Cleveland, OH 44114, USA.
Agricultural industrialization, Green Revolution technologies, environmental change and civil conflicts have all been cited as contributing to the erosion of crop biodiversity. An additional factor is change in the characteristics of markets, including distance to market. Proponents of sustainable agriculture claim that one benefit of local food systems is the preservation of crop biodiversity. This paper explores that claim, examining Ohio orchardists' understanding and valuation of apple varieties and relating these to the preservation of biodiversity. Growers provided lists of apple varieties and then performed pilesorts on them. Analysis using multidimensional scaling reveals the underlying dimensions growers use to distinguish those cultivars. Salient characteristics are taste, use and market focus. Demands of the conventional commercial market with regards to transportation, appearance and storage exclude the old varieties. On the other hand, there is a strong congruence between sales in local markets and production of old varieties. Local markets, such as roadside stands and ‘pick-your-own’ operations, play an important role in the preservation of heirloom varieties of apples.
(Accepted July 01 2004)