Who Buys Food Directly from Producers in the Southeastern United States?

In order to capitalize on potential opportunities to meet market demand for locally-grown foods, farmers need insight into significant motivations and behavioral characteristics of those consumers who have purchased local foods. Furthermore, it is evident that some consumers buy directly from producers based on their desire for “local” food (Thilmany, Bond, and Bond 2008). Local food consumer preferences and motivations potentially differ across regions of the United States and across varying definitions of “local” food. Little research has been done on the local foods sector for the Southeastern United States. Most studies concentrate on the Eastern coast or the Western region of the United States (e.g. Giruad et al, 2005; Hardesty, 2008; Thilmanny et al, 2008) or would benefit from updated analyses (Eastwood et al, 1987). There are 12,549 community supported agriculture programs in the US, of which 4,015 (32%) are located in the Southeastern region (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2007), an indication of consumer support for producer-sourced food and food products. This paper aims to fill this gap in the literature by evaluating the characteristics of Southeastern urban consumers who purchased food directly from producers. The results of our study are based on an online survey of 1,023 primary household food shoppers who reside in five major cities in the southeast US (Atlanta GA, Nashville TN, Birmingham AL, and Houston and Austin TX). Novel study findings include the impact of disease incidences among respondent and related family members, a more accurate respondent understanding of the agriculture industry, and higher physical activity levels, all of which are significantly linked to increased likelihood to purchase direct from producers. Significant differences in respondent purchasing behavior were exhibited between cities, as well as relatively higher levels of respondent concern about the safety of U.S. grown food and food products. Female respondents with some college education who prepare more meals at home each week were statistically more likely to have purchased direct-from-producers within the previous six months (January through June, 2012), findings that are consistent with the existing literature. The results of this study are expected to assist growers located in the Southeast who are interested in securing and nurturing sustainable, producer-to-consumer relationships. Extension specialists can share survey findings by delivering producer educational programs built on informed, targeted marketing strategies that effectively meet the needs of the locally grown consumer base.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-26

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