The purpose of this research was to gain a greater insight into the characteristics and beliefs consumers draw upon while selecting the produce they purchase. Health and environmental risk perceptions of many agricultural inputs and products were also collected as well as demographic information. Nineteen produce characteristics were ranked by consumers. Locally grown produce and the country of origin were among the least important characteristics while freshness, taste/flavor, cleanliness, health value and absence of pesticides were among the most important characteristics. The survey also showed that most consumers made use of nutritional information and labeling while shopping for food and those who did, felt it aided them in making better purchase decisions. Consumers exhibited a clear preference for low-input methods of agricultural production which minimize the use of pesticides. They believed that there were health benefits to organic produce and that they would purchase more organic produce if it were more readily available. Respondents also indicated that they believed pesticides in general, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides all had significant health and environmental risks. Consumers believed on average that the use of pesticides positively contributes to the cosmetic appearance, quality, and supply of produce. Conversely, they believed that a reduction in pesticide usage would increase both the healthfulness and prices of produce. The results show where consensus and discord exist among consumers beliefs. Issues which have been the result of media campaigns and advertising such as oils used in cooking, tobacco products and alcoholic beverages show a greater degree of consensus than issues which are not often in the public spotlight. There were also areas in which consumers believed that there were inadequacies in the current produce market. Participants did not believe government food safeguards were sufficient to 2 protect public health nor did they believe the experts know enough about the long term effects of pesticide residues. The goal of this research was to provide food marketing agents with a better understanding of consumer purchase behavior, preferences and beliefs. The results are especially encouraging to those developing marketing endeavors for low input produce such as organic and IPM produce.


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