We analyse the marketing of ‘heirloom rices’ produced in the Cordillera mountains of northern Luzon, the Philippines, as the commodification of a historical ‘anti-commodity’. We contend that, historically, rice was produced for social, cultural and spiritual purposes but not primarily for sale or trade.
The Ifugaos were able to sustain terraced wet-rice cultivation within a system of ‘escape agriculture’ because they were protected from Spanish interference by the friction of terrain and distance. ‘Heirloom rice’ is a boundary concept that enables social entrepreneurs to commodify traditional landraces. We analyse the implications for local rice production and conservation efforts.