Final Report for LS00-109
This research examined the potential for direct marketing, capitalizing on farming near urban centers. A goal for this research project was to identify ways farmers in North Carolina could improve their quality of life by increasing the community’s support for local agricultural products. Data were collected on farmers’ current production and marketing strategies and on consumers’ purchasing priorities. These data were used to develop outreach programs designed both to modify farmers’ strategies and to educate consumers about local agricultural production. Presentations were made to farmers and consumers on direct marketing at local farmers markets and CSA arrangements.
Specific objectives guided the research for this project. The objectives were to: 1) identify consumers’ motivations for coming to a farmers market; 2) identify farmers’ opportunities to increase sales through direct marketing; 3) increase opportunities for consumer supported agriculture arrangements; 4) strengthen farmer – consumer linkages; and 5) develop a multi-faceted education program to modify farmers’ marketing strategies and consumers’ purchasing patterns.
The purpose of this two-year research (2000-2002) project was to improve farmers’ quality of life through direct marketing. As the literature and preliminary discussions with small farmers led us to believe, farmers can make a living from farming if there is a supportive market. The motivation for this project was to strengthen direct marketing through farmers markets such that they could be a valuable part of a broader strategy that would assist limited resource small farmers in the face of competition from agri-businesses and other large producers. CSA arrangements were introduced to farmer and consumers groups as an alternative marketing plan for small farmers and the community that support farmers.
Agriculture is North Carolina’s number one industry and is one of the top five diversified agricultural states in the nation (NCSDA & CS 1999). Although NC leads all other states in production of tobacco, turkeys and sweet potatoes and ranks second in the production of hogs (NCSDA & CS 1999), that nature of the agricultural industry is changing. Similar to national trends, there has been a 16% decrease in the number of farms between 1987 and 1997 and a decrease in farm size 4% (NCDA & CS 1999,1997; NCAS 1988). In Guilford County, the third largest county in North Carolina where the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market (PTFM) is located, the number of farms and acreage in harvested crops have also decreased by 32% and 22 % respectively, while farm size has increased by 22%, suggesting smaller farmers are getting squeezed out of production.
Of all the direct marketing approaches that link consumers with their agro-food system, the oldest is the farmers market, a location designated by a community or state where farmers convene to sell their products on a seasonal, weekly, or daily basis (Corum et al. 2001; Gibson 1994). Farmers markets are especially important to small farmers, who have difficulty finding a place in the industrial marketing system because of their limited production; the markets also help reduce insurance, advertising, and other marketing costs. The number of farmers markets has been increasing in recent years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 2863 farmers markets operated in the US in 2000, a 64% increase from 1994 (USDA 2001; Organic Gardening 2001). There is clearly support for farmers markets from both farmers and consumers, and strengthening their effectiveness would help small-scale farmers thrive in the face of competition from agri-businesses and other large producers. As in any commercial enterprise, the success of a market depends on how well the farmers’ marketing strategies match consumers’ preferences and expectations, and how well the opportunities provided by the market match the needs of the farmers.
A less well-known direct marketing approach is known as Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA), a production and distribution arrangement in which consumers (known as “shareholders,” “members,” or “subscribers”) pre-pay for produce in the off-season and receive fresh produce weekly during the harvest season at predetermined pick-up locations (Andreatta 2000, DeLind and Harmen-Fackler 1999, Goland 2002, Henderson 1999, Kane 1998, Ostrom 1997). This alternative marketing arrangement not only provides the farmer with capital with which to begin the planting season, but also ensures a guaranteed market. Most importantly, members are paying close to 100% of the cost of the produce – their share of the harvest – directly to a farmer in advance of the planting season. In turn, members receive fresh, local produce once a week throughout the growing season. As shareholders in the farm business, they share the risks with the farmer. In this way, the risks are spread throughout the whole membership rather than falling solely on the farmer. This arrangement provides a direct link between non-farmers and farmers and is founded on the idea of building community among those who share in the harvest. The goal of these relationships is to provide solutions to the problems of small farm survival, food quality, nutrition, sustainability and quality of life. In the process, consumers become linked to one particular food producer, his/her soils and food quality.
CSA farmers attempt to get some of their shareholders involved in the production of their food by establishing core groups that take on responsibilities for helping with the harvest labor, writing newsletters, and making major field or farm repairs (Henderson 1999). However, some farmers may work out agreements with shareholders that reduce the cost of a share in exchange for labor, while others require labor during the season. Having workdays, open-house days, or picnics on the farm encourages members to visit the farm to see how their food is grown and how the farm operates.
There were three components to this project. First, this project was to develop a better understanding the cultural relationships between the food-selling habits of farmers and the food-buying habits of consumers in a farmers market. Second, this project was to identify cultural values and expectations involved in direct marketing for both farmers and consumers. Lastly, this project was to identify ways in which communities can support local agriculture by improving the success of the farmers market and serve as an opportunity to strengthen ties between farmers and consumers. It is with these three foci that this project laid the groundwork for an understanding of the values and expectations associated with the local agricultural and food system (the agro-food system) represented by farmers markets and CSA arrangements.
Site Selection: The Piedmont Triad Farmers Market (PTFM), established in 1995, was selected for this study for a number of reasons. The PTFM is located close to three major urban areas (Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point) with a combined population of more than 500,000 inhabitants. The PTFM is one of five state-operated farmers markets in North Carolina. The PTFM is a seven-day market, with Saturday being its busiest day – up to 10,000 people may visit the market on any given Saturday between June and August and even more attend during the market’s biannual herb and craft festivals. During the week fewer people visit the market, less than 1000 daily.
Six large structures are visible upon entering the seventy-six acre grounds of the PTFM. There are two shelters for farmers to sell local, fresh farm products, one enclosed building for vendors selling non-local food products retail, a refrigerated wholesale building, a retail garden center and a restaurant. The shelters, known as Farm Area 1 and Farm Area 2, have sheet-metal roofs to protect users from the elements. Farm Area 1 has a total of 53 primary vending spaces that straddle almost evenly on both sides of an aisle; Farm Area 2 has a single row of 32 spaces, and is sometimes referred to as “the overflow area.” Farmers and vendors (those who are hired to sell on behalf of farmers) sell a wide variety of seasonal fruits, vegetables, animal products and by-products, cut flowers, nursery plants (bedding and houseplants) honey, preserves, and baked goods.
The PTFM is managed by a market manager, two assistants and supporting staff – a grounds crew and a gatehouse operator. The market mangers provided the PIs with their list with contact information for all farmers that had registered to sell at PTFM. The market managers, who are state employees, respond to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture mandates and establish local in-house rules for the market. There is an advisory board comprised of local farmers and vendors from the retail produce building. This advisory board met infrequently and had a limited role because the market manager made all final decisions.
Year 1 Data Collection (2000-2001)
The methods used to collect data at the farmers market are taken from those used by Lockeretz (1986) in his study of urban consumers’ attitudes and Stephenson and Lev (1998; 1999) in their study on consumers’ spending patterns at farmers markets in Oregon. Data were collected from consumer shopping at the market (farmers market shoppers) and from farmers registered to sell at PTFM (purposive sampling) or recommended by other farmers as data collection progressed (snowball sampling) (Bernard 1995).
Interviews with Farmers Market Shoppers: A consumer questionnaire was developed on the basis of initial discussions with consumers, farmers, market managers, and extension agents. While at the PTFM, convenience sampling was used to obtain participants (Bernard, 1995). Six enumerators were present at the market on six consecutive Saturdays during June and July, 2000. The enumerators administered the questionnaire on a one-to-one basis to consumers who were present at the PTFM. Since the respondents (PTFM shoppers) were shopping or visiting while at the market interviews were kept brief. Each interview lasted between 15 and 45 minutes. Each shopper was interviewed only once during that five-week period and a total of 463 farmers market shoppers were surveyed. Questions focused on a variety of topics such as: price, quality, distance traveled, frequency to the market, interest in organics and cooking, advantages and disadvantages of farmers market shopping. Survey results are inherently biased due to timing of interviews.
Interviews with Farmers. A total of 38 in-depth on-farm interviews were conducted between January 2000-October 2000 with small farmers who live in the Piedmont of North Carolina. All of the farmers participating in this research earn well below USDA’s criterion of $250,000 per year for a small farmer. A structured, open-ended questionnaire was used to obtain data on the number of locations a farmer uses to sell his/her harvest, frequency of direct marketing at farmers markets, use of other marketing outlets, travel time and distance, and income earned. Interviews lasted from one to four hours. In this study we interviewed only farmers, namely those who sell their own, locally grown farm produce (fruits, vegetables, cheese, and some value-added products such as baked goods and preserves). Farmers selling products such as Christmas trees and crafts were not included.
Focus Groups with Farmers. A random sample of farmers registered to sell at the PTFM were invited to attend a farmer meeting to hear the results obtained from the consumer survey. Letters were sent to 102 registered farmers, thirty-one of whom attended one of four meetings held in January, February and March 2001. Different meeting locations were arranged to accommodate their travel.
During the focus groups, participants were first asked to list aspects of their farming experiences that contributed to a good quality of life. Approximately thirty minutes were spent with participants listing one item per yellow sticky note. All sticky notes were gathered and placed on a large sheet of paper displayed for everyone to see. The facilitators grouped like terms (values and activities) into categories and participants were asked how they would re-group them and why. Additional information gained from the group discussion was noted on the paper to which the sticky notes were affixed. Discussions led to additional information about what contributed to a good quality of life. This procedure was used three more times in the course of the meeting to generate a list of: 1. positive aspects of the PTFM, 2. negative aspects of the PTFM, and 3. participants’ solutions to problems or issues raised during discussion. Focus group participants were also asked to complete the questionnaire that had been administered the previous summer to consumers at the PTFM. They were then asked to think about the consumers with whom they interact and to respond with what they think most of their consumers do at the PTFM. The surveys were then copied and returned to the participants for them to follow as we presented the results from the consumer survey. These focus group sessions lasted from 2.5 to 4 hours.
Community Supported Agriculture 2000-2002. Background research on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) was conducted prior to the funding of this project. Information on CSAs from around the country as well as in the southern region was obtained (DeLind and Harmen-Fackler 1999, Goland 2002, Henderson 1999, Kane 1998, Ostrom 1997.) The first step was to identify who in North Carolina had a CSA arrangement and what were the advantages and disadvantages to this marketing approach. Phone interviews were conducted with farmers who have or had a CSA arrangement, which provided useful information for understanding CSAs in North Carolina. Informally, three of these farmers have continued to contribute information on their CSAs on an annual basis since the phone inquiry.
Second, a long-term study on shareholder and farmer satisfaction emerged. Data have been collected on yields, varieties, income, farmer and shareholder satisfaction and experiences. Data have been collected systematically from 1998 to through 2002. In addition data from farmers who abandoned the CSA arrangement has also been collected. Combined datasets were used to develop an alternative marketing strategy for local farmers.
Year 2 Data Collection (2001-2002)
Community Sample. A second data set was collected from consumers who were not present at farmers markets at the time of the interview. Data were gathered from participants who reside in one of eleven counties in the northern Piedmont region of North Carolina by interviewing at YMCAs, YWCAs, health clubs, libraries, university settings, etc. A total of 334 participants (community sample) were interviewed from July – September 2001, a time when farmers markets were thriving. Three enumerators assisted in interviewing participants one-on-one, obtaining both qualitative and quantitative responses to the survey questions. Times of the day when interviews took place varied from morning, lunch hours and late afternoons. All interviews were completed during a Monday through Friday work week.
Mailed Farmer Questionnaire. In January 2002, five hundred and ten questionnaires were mailed to farmers who had past experience marketing at the PTFM. The questionnaire asked questions pertaining to their past year of farming and marketing. By early February one hundred and nine of the surveys were returned, for a 22% return rate.
The results from this study are compiled from several different data sets. Over the two-year period (2000-2002) data were collected from farmers, consumers at the farmers market (farmers market shopper sample) and those consumers away from the farmers markets (community sample), CSA farmers and their shareholders.
Results from the Farmers Market study: Results indicated that people shop at farmers markets for a variety of reasons. Of the farmers market shopper sample, 88% said they came because the produce is fresh and 64% came to buy local products. (Participants could select more than one reason for shopping at the market.) Only 16% came to buy inexpensive food, suggesting that financial savings are not an important factor in the decision to shop at the market. Indeed, the modal amount that people in our sample spent at the market was $16-20 per trip, much more than the $6 per trip reported by Lloyd et al. (1987).
Farmers market shoppers were asked to rank the items they purchase most (fruit, vegetables, flowers, bedding plants or other). The combined first and second choices listed by regular visitors were vegetables (91%), fruit (76%), bedding plants (20%), flowers (17%), and other items such as goat cheese, ostrich meat, herbs, honey and bread (8%). It is clear from their responses that most consumers visited the PTFM to buy fresh vegetables and fruit. (This survey was conducted during the height of the vegetable and fruit season, and different results might have been obtained at other times of year.)
Furthermore, when participants were asked how much they would be willing to spend at the market to buy a food item costing $1 in a supermarket, 80% said they would pay the same amount or more and only 4% expected to buy it for 50 cents or less. Nor was convenience a significant factor: 86% traveled six miles or more to reach the market and, of those, 15% traveled over 20 miles. Despite the distance they traveled to reach the market, most people shopped there regularly. During the summer (May – August), 34% came every Saturday, and another 22% came at least twice a month. Although participants came to the market primarily to buy fresh, local food, the atmosphere of the market, the opportunity to meet the farmer who grew the food, and a desire to support the local economy were also mentioned as reasons.
The majority of farmers market shoppers interviewed did not engage in “one-stop” shopping by purchasing from a single farmer. Approximately 89% bought from 3-5 vendors, and 38% bought from more than five vendors. The opportunity to visit with a number of farmers appeared to be part of the market’s attraction.
Farmers market shoppers were asked to list the things that they disliked or considered a disadvantage of the PTFM. The disadvantages listed either first or second by regular visitors were distance traveled to get to the market (23%), the seasonal variation in food availability (14%), the hours of the market when farmers were present (12%), and lack of locally grown food (10%). The cost of food ranked near the bottom of their dissatisfaction list (3%). However, 33% had no complaints about the market, answering why, out of 463 consumers interviewed, 56% keep returning on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
As well as answering our questions, some consumers provided additional qualitative data, including both positive (n=215) and negative (n=167) comments. Among the positive comments, 29% indicated that consumers did not think about the price when buying food at the market. Others (15%) commented that coming to the market was like an outing; it was something fun to do on a Saturday morning. In fact, several couples said their weekly Saturday marketing experience began with eating breakfast out prior to coming to the market. Others commented that the market was pleasant and a nice place to visit (23%) or that they enjoyed the relationship they had buying from local farmers (10%). There were others who said they liked coming because of the quality of the products and selection of items, while others came primarily for special items or special events.
Although there were fewer negative (n=167) than positive comments, a few people had suggestions that might be beneficial to farmers selling at the market. Some people expressed concerns about the freshness and “localness” of the food sold at the PTFM. Farmers market shoppers making these remarks wanted to see signs and permits at the food stands confirming that the food sold in Farm Areas 1 and 2 was grown locally. These shoppers wanted to make sure that they were purchasing the freshest produce from local farmers, especially if they were driving a long distance to buy local and support the local farming community (20%). Others wanted more variety in the foods available (15%), not necessarily at each booth, but in the market as a whole. A few comments were made about the way the market is advertised, and 3% thought more could be done to promote local agriculture and the PTFM. Other negative comments included complaints that too many of the vendors were selling bedding plants, possibly displacing local produce farmers, concerns about hygiene (such as dirty floors, smoking by vendors selling food, dogs, and food stored without refrigeration), and suggestions for improving traffic flow.
Community Sample. The community sample, obtained from eleven counties and interviewed at YMCAs, YWCAs, health clubs, libraries, university settings, included a number of people (36%) who also shopped at PTFM regularly (more than twice per month) and another 43% who bought fresh produce from other local sources rather than supermarkets. The community sample reported that when they do visit a farmers market, the median distance they travel was 10 miles. This sample also reported little interest in buying cheap food at a farmers market, with 69% saying they would be willing to pay a 50% premium for fresh, local produce.
Taken together, these data strongly suggest that North Carolina consumers are willing to go out of their way to patronize a local farmers market on a regular basis and that most of them do so not to save money, but to buy fresh, local food in a setting that connects them with the person who grew it. Clearly, farmers markets are a successful way to bring the consumer in contact with the farmer, and our data suggest that farmers can expect to sell their produce at reasonable prices in such venues without losing customers.
Farmers sample. Several different data sets contribute to the farmers’ perspective of direct marketing and support for local agriculture. One-to-one interviews conducted with an open-ended questionnaire and focus groups provided us with the baseline information. Another questionnaire was mailed to farmers at the end of the second year (2002), providing an opportunity to be open, for their identity was not recorded on the survey. In addition, PIs and enumerators made regular visits to farmers markets over the course of the two years providing the context in which the data fit. Participant and casual observation on-farm and at farmers markets were central to adding depth to our research (Bernard 1995).
Results from Interviews and Focus Groups with Farmers. All of the farmers interviewed for this study earned more than $10,000 but less than $100,000, and self-identify as small farmers. The small farmers grow and sell fresh vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers from March though December. The diversity of crops they grow allows them to plant and harvest continuously through three growing periods (spring/summer, summer and fall/winter). Those cultivating earlier and longer rely on greenhouses to extend their productivity and marketing seasons. Most produce 20-40 different items in relatively small quantities, a pattern of production that is effective for bringing a diversity of products directly to customers through direct marketing.
From the interviews, data were obtained on the diversity in farming, as well as the creative marketing approaches farmers use and about the differences in marketing conditions between county- and state-operated farmers markets. Additional information on these topics was gained from the focus group discussions. All the farmers interviewed on-farm sold weekly at farmers markets from March through the end of November or mid-December. All enjoyed working with the public at farmers markets and many of the farmers generated a large percentage of their farm income in this way.
Both younger and older farmers described farming as a way of life as well as a business. In North Carolina the average age of a farmer is 55.2 years (USDA 1999); in this study the average age was 56 years, ranging from 22 to 80. Farmers view working for themselves as important to their quality of life. In fact, during the focus groups, thirty-two comments made reference to “independence,” “being one’s own boss,” “not doing the same thing everyday is a blessing,” and “freedom.” One farmer stated, “it’s a wonderful way to pass through life.” Nevertheless, farmers did not romanticize farming. It was frequently mentioned that “farming is a lot of hard work,” and “you really got to love it to do it.” Another farmer said “the real boss is the consumer, the ones we are selling to.” At the end of the day, it was important for farmers to earn an income to stay in farming and to provide for their families.
Farming was associated not only with a way of life or earning an income, but also with being stewards of the earth. While walking through fields or sitting around a table, farmers commented that they “enjoyed working outdoors in fresh air” and “feeling connected with nature,” “taking care of and improving the land, especially in areas that are prone to erosion.” In both the on-farm interviews and the focus group discussions it was clear that farmers like to make some of their own farming decisions by responding to market demands, creating marketing niches, adjusting farming practices to the weather, soil quality and water availability.
Small farmers must market at numerous locations during the week to make a living. For example, some farmers with perishable products, such as berries or flowers, make weekly deliveries to eight or more locations. One farmer, who sold the majority of his harvest to restaurants, made over twenty-five deliveries and drove over 400 miles a week during his growing season. Another farmer has a CSA for her flowers – she delivers flower arrangements weekly to restaurants and homeowners who prepay in January for the season’s deliveries. She has two subscription arrangements – a 13-week summer subscription and an 11-week summer/fall subscription – that require her to drive more than 150 miles a week. Others who produce unique artisan products such as goat cheese or ostrich meat sell to more than a dozen restaurants and specialty food stores to supplement their sales at farmers markets. On average the farmers interviewed traveled approximately 200 miles a week to sell their products. In aggregate, they use ten different venues to sell their products on a weekly basis, and 63% sell at four or more places weekly. Farmers benefit from these mid-week outlets, for it helps to constantly harvest and move produce or products before they perish. As one farmer reminded us, “you can’t tell a tomato to wait until Saturday before it is ready for market.”
These farmers all see farmers markets in general as good places for them to sell their product, both because they could get a better price than elsewhere and because they valued the interaction with consumers. Comments from the focus groups included: “The market is an opportunity to show off your product.” “It is a market where you can sell most of your product.” “There is a good product mix for sale; there is variety, choice of selection.” “A customer can pick out the best quality and compare with other farmers’ products.” “Direct marketing provides better and higher prices.” Farmers in the focus groups also enjoyed the interactions with consumers afforded by selling at the market as well as the opportunity for educating consumers, especially children, about farms, farming, and the food they sell. The farmers also considered the PTFM itself to be a nice facility. They were not on a roadside, or in a field, but under a roof selling at a facility that had restrooms, electricity and running water. Water was helpful for those who needed to water plants or sprinkle on harvest to keep it looking fresh.
Although the farmers spoke favorably about the market, they also had a number of negative comments when responding to listing the negative aspects of selling at PTFM. For example, some farmers have stopped selling at the PTFM because they could not be guaranteed a place to sell on Saturday or because they could not get a space where the consumer traffic-flow is better. Farmers commented that it was not worth their time to get up at 3:00 am to be at the market before 5:00 am to sell only $60.00 worth of produce. Overall, these farmers said they had to spend too much time at the market during the week to hold on to a space for Saturday. Several farmers contacted for this study had stopped selling at PTFM for a variety of reasons. For example, of the 102 who were asked to participate in a focus group, 22% no longer sold at the PTFM, and of these, 12 % had stopped because of dissatisfaction with the market.
The farmers in one-on-one interviews and in the focus groups commented on their concern with the misrepresentation of the products sold at the market. There are farmers selling at the market who re-sell each others products, or who go up and buy in Virginia, South Carolina or Georgia and bring it to the PTFM to resell. A further concern mentioned was with reference to what is sold. According to management, 51% of what is sold needs to be produced on-farm by the farmer whose farm is being represented by the products. However, the farmer does not have to identify what is his or hers and what was purchased.
Summary: From the initial interviews and focus groups positive and negative aspects involved in direct marketing at a state operated farmers market were revealed. In addition, not germane to this study, positive and negative aspects of other markets that farmers sell at on a weekly basis were also obtained. Farmers are appreciative of the volume of traffic that comes through the PTFM market on Saturdays between May and September; traffic counter records over 10,000 people visit each week during the height of the growing season. Nevertheless, there were a number of problems that were revealed at this particular state-operated farmers market having to do with consistency in implementing the rules to all farmers throughout the growing season. Although a seven-day a week market, farmers also commented in the mailed questionnaire of wanting a better mid-week market.
Among the farmers responding to the mailed questionnaire (n=110), the average age is 56, ranging from 18 to 97. Ten percent of the respondents reported they were retired too, hence they are not farming. The median acreage farmed is 39 acres, ranging .33 to 806 acres; however, forty-five percent own less than thirty-nine acres. Of the lands they owned farmers reported they farmed on average 12 acres; forty percent farmed less than 12 acres. The average number of years farming for these farmers is 27, ranging from just starting out to 81 years. On average these farmers sell at three different farmers markets a week. However others sell to over seventeen different locations (not all farmers markets) and travel on average 170 miles a week to make their deliveries. Larger farmers reported traveling 1000 miles per week for their distribution.
For local farmers there are other outlets other than farmers markets, where buyers are interested in fresh local farm products. Fifteen percent reported they sell to restaurants, averaging six restaurants a week. Among those who are interested or able to wholesale, 15% wholesale on average three times a week.
Among the farmers responding to this mailed questionnaire, 56% stated they could not make it with only farming, a spouse or partner had to be in public work to help make ends meet.
CSA Data (2001-2002)
For these past two summers a prolonged dry spell affected many farmers in North Carolina. Farmers lost crops, culled animals prematurely and many had their wells and ponds dry up as they tried to feed their families. Like many other farmers in North Carolina, everyone suffered with the drought. The farmers reported on here were able to selectively irrigate some crops sufficiently to provide their CSA shareholders with fresh farm produce. There were several occasions when the Thursday-pick-up-shareholders and the Saturday-pick-up-shareholders had to forgo their share completely. As a result, shareholders helped to share the burden of the drought with the farmers, a sense of community they value. However, even with the drought the farmers hoped that these past two years experience had been good ones and that shareholders/members will encourage others to work with local farmers in supporting a local agriculture-food system.
Farmers with a CSA have provided data on their farm since 1998. Data analyzed here are from the last two years 2001 and 2002. In 2001 the farmers provided CSA bags to 29 households for 20 weeks (a full share) and 7 other households for a four-week Fall share. In 2002 they were up to 33 shareholders. Retaining their shareholders from year to year as well as expanding in the number of shareholders as quickly as they have is from the diversity of crops they grow. These farmers produce over forty different items and one hundred different varieties in a growing season. Their household income comes from their two acres under production (they own eight acres and lease forty-five).
At the end of each harvest season a survey is sent to each shareholder. There is high response rate to the survey, 79% in 2001 and 78% in 2002. The results from the end-of-year surveys are valuable and help with planning for the following year.
Shareholders were asked to list the five most important reasons for joining a CSA (See Table 1). Because each shareholder could pick up to five responses each variable will add up to 100 percent.
Shareholders commented on their expectations of being a member of the CSA. In 2001 74% of the shareholders’ CSA expectations had been met, and in 2002 89% of the shareholders’ expectations had been met. In 2001 35% of the shareholders contend their CSA shares exceeded their expectations, similarly for 2002 31% of the shareholders stated their CSA shares exceeded their expectations. In both seasons there were some dissatisfied shareholders where they felt their CSA share fell short of their expectations (9% 2001 and 8% in 2002).
Table 1. Reasons for Joining a CSA 2001 and 2002
Reasons for Joining a CSA 2001 n=23 Percent Reasons for Joining a CSA 2002 =26 Percent
Locally grown 91 Support local farmer 81
Organic 83 Fresh produce 65
Fresh produce 74 Organic 65
Support a local farmer 74 Locally grown 62
Support small farmers 43 Eating in Season 34
Caring for the environment 43 Support small farmers 31
Eating in Season 35 Caring for the environment 27
Knowing where your food comes from 26 Knowing where your food comes from 23
Having a sense of community 17 Trying new foods 23
Land Stewardship 17 Health and Diet 15
Trying new foods 13 Reduce Packaging 8
Reduce packaging 4 Educate Family 8
Convenience 4 Opportunity to work on Farm 8
Shareholders were asked how much of their fresh produce needs were met by the weekly CSA share. In 2001 47% of the shareholders felt that between 50-74% of their weekly vegetable needs were met with their CSA shares, while it was 35% in 2002 (See Table 2). In 2002, the year of the drought, 54% of the shareholders felt that between 25-49% of their weekly vegetable needs were met with their CSA shares. However, it is interesting to find that 58% of the shareholders in 2002 felt their shares provided excess food that they gave away (42%) composted (15%), or did something else with it (15%). Therefore, there may be an imbalance with quantity, variety or something for the shareholders.
Table 2. Percentage of Vegetables provided in the CSA weekly shares
CSA share met weekly household needs Percent
2001 n=23 Percent
75-99% 35 0
50-74% 47 35
25-49% 9 54
Less than 25% 9 11
In 2001 the majority of the CSA shareholders are very satisfied with the quantity they received (78%), the quality of the produce (87%), the freshness of the produce (61%), the variety (70%), the distribution site (78%) and distribution time (82%) (See Table 3). In 2002, the majority of the CSA shareholders are very satisfied with the freshness of the produce (92%), the quality of the produce (88%), and the quantity they received (56%) (See Table 3).
Table 3. Level of Satisfaction for Various Share Criteria (frequency)
2002=n26 Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neutral Satisfied Very Satisfied
2001 2002 2001 2002 2001 2002 2001 2002 2001 2002
Quantity 1 4 11 18 14
Quality 3 3 20 22
Freshness 1 3 5 2 14 23
Variety 1 5 6 13 16 6
Distribution Site 5 7 18 16
Distribution Time 1 2 1 2 3 18 19
Social 2 1 5 2 1 5 11 16
2001 Shareholders responded somewhat positively to the level of social activity with the CSA this past year (55%). Interesting to note however, 65% participated or assisted in the various farm activities held throughout the growing season, suggesting some shareholders would like to do more with their CSA. Some of the comments from the shareholders also reflect this interest.
2002 Shareholders responded positively to the level of social activity with the CSA this past year (64% were very satisfied). Some of the shareholders participated in the on-farm work days that were followed by the potluck dinners. Others came out to the farm to work at other times. Several shareholders were helpful in providing recipes. Nevertheless, four shareholders claimed there were no activities available, which is surprising when there were two organized farm-work days followed by potluck dinners. There are many other ways to create more of the social/community element within CSA, which can evolve from core members interested in doing more with and for their CSA. Suggestions include: helping with harvesting and distribution, a newsletter, a cookbook, and a recipe exchange with shareholders.
We asked shareholders how many will be renewing their CSA membership. For 2001 65% reported they would be renewing the following year. Those who said no or who were unsure about renewing (35%) did not comment on why they would not be renewing. For 2002 73% said they would renew next year. Those who said no or who are unsure about renewing (27%) did not comment on why they would not be renewing. The farmers have reported they will be taking up to forty shareholders for the 2003 season, and as of March 2003 they have met their quota.
Educational & Outreach Activities
2003 Urban Connections to Locally Grown Produce: Trends in the USA. Proceedings published for a Symposium on Urban Place: Reconnections with the Natural World. November 7-8, 2002.Emory University (in press)
Andreatta, Susan and Wickliffe II, William
2002 “Managing Farmer and Consumer Expectations: A Study of a North Carolina Farmers Market.” Human Organization. 60 (2):167-176.
2000 Marketing Strategies and Challenges of Small-Scale Organic Producers in Central North Carolina. Culture and Agriculture. 22(3):40-50.
Newsletter from Guilford County Cooperative Extension
Wickliffe II, William
Guilford County Field Crops News. March 2002 “White Tablecloth Marketing.”
Undergraduate Honors thesis
2002 “North Carolina’s Small Family Farms: Students’ Influence on a Local Agro-Food System.” Supervised by Dr. Susan Andreatta. Department of Anthropology. University of North Carolina at Greensboro
2002 “Local Agro-Food Systems: How do We Get Community Back into Agriculture?” Presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology, Atlanta, Georgia. March 6-10.
2001 “Consumers and Growers Supporting a Local Agro-Food System: A Case Study of a North Carolina Farmers Market.” Invited session for Culture and Agriculture. American Anthropological Association, Washington, D.C. November 28 – December 2.
2001 “From the Ground Up: How to Start a CSA Arrangement.” Presented at the 15th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference. Rock Hill, South Carolina. November 2-4.
2001 “Farmers Markets Serving the Community by Linking Consumers and Farmers.” Society for Applied Anthropology, Merida, Mexico. March 26-April 1.
2000 “A Political Ecology Approach to Small Farm Survival.” American Anthropological Association, San Francisco, CA. November 16-21.
2000 “Anthropologists as Advocates: Gaining Community Support for local Agriculture in North Carolina.” Society for Applied Anthropology, San Francisco, CA. March 21-26.
2000 “The Effects of GM Seeds on Organic Food Producers.” Society for Applied Anthropology, San Francisco, CA. March 21-26.
2003 “Farmers Interested in Direct Marketing: Try Farmers Markets and Community Supported Agriculture” presented at the First annual Triad Organic School held at Guilford County Cooperative Extension. Hosted by Project Green Leaf, Guilford County Cooperative Extension, A & T University and Carolina Farmer Stewardship Association. March 1.
2003 “Introduction to Organic Gardening” presented at the First annual Triad Organic School held at Guilford County Cooperative Extension. Hosted by Project Green Leaf, Guilford County Cooperative Extension, A & T University and Carolina Farmer Stewardship Association. March 1.
Andreatta, Susan and Debbie Roos
2002 “The Principles of Community Supported Agriculture.” Presented at Chatham County Agricultural Extension and Consumer Services. July 15. Hosted by Debbie Roos, Chatham County Agricultural Extension Agent.
2002 “The Principles of Community Supported Agriculture.” Presented at Dobson County Agricultural Extension and Consumer Services. May 23rd.
2002 “The Principles of Farmers Markets and Community Supported Agriculture.” Presented at Forsyth Technical Community College. Stokes County North Carolina. April 4th.
Andreatta, Susan and Tom Martinek Jr.
2002 “Sustainable Food Systems: Marketing to Retailers and Restaurants.” Hosted by William Wickliffe II. Guilford County Extension. Greensboro, NC. April 2nd.
2002 “The Principles of Community Supported Agriculture.” Presented at the High County Organic Growers School. Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute. Boone, NC March 23rd.
2002 “What is a CSA?” Presented at NCDA & CS Food Policy Council: Food Security: Issues for the High Country. Boone, NC Watauga County Extension Services. March 22nd.
2002 “What is a CSA?” Presented for NCDA & CS Food Policy Council: “Connecting North Carolina Farmers to North Carolina Consumers” North Carolina Cooperative Extension Chatham County, Pittsboro, NC. February 22.
2001 “From the Ground Up: How to Start a CSA Arrangement.” Presented at the Annual Community Supported Agriculture Conference. Claryville, New York. December 7-9.
2001 “Save the Family Farm.” Presented at the Mid-week Garden Club. High Point Country Club. High Point, North Carolina. November 19th.
2001 “Save the Family Farm.” Presented at the Greensboro Historical Museum Guild. Greensboro, North Carolina. October 15th.
Andreatta, Susan and Wickliffe II, William
2001 Project presentation to Market Managers on “Increasing Growers’ Quality of life through Direct Marketing: The Role of Farmers’ Markets and Consumer Supported Agriculture.” Presentation held at Guilford County Agriculture Extension Office. April 26.
Andreatta, Susan and Wickliffe II, William
2001 Project presentation to farmers in the Piedmont on “Increasing Growers’ Quality of life through Direct Marketing: The Role of Farmers’ Markets and Consumer Supported Agriculture.” Presentation held at Davidson County Agriculture Extension Office. February 2nd.
Andreatta, Susan and Wickliffe II, William
2001 Project presentation to farmers in the Piedmont on “Increasing Growers’ Quality of life through Direct Marketing: The Role of Farmers’ Markets and Consumer Supported Agriculture.” Presentation held at Forsyth County Agriculture Extension Office. February 1st
Andreatta, Susan and Wickliffe II, William
2001 Project presentation to farmers in the Piedmont on “Increasing Growers’ Quality of life through Direct Marketing: The Role of Farmers’ Markets and Consumer Supported Agriculture.” Presentation held at Guilford County Agriculture Extension Office. January 19th.
2000 “Direct Marketing Opportunities in North Carolina.” Presented at the Center for Environmental Studies Farming Systems, Goldsboro, NC to NC State University interns in Sustainable Agriculture. August 18, 2000.
Andreatta, Susan and Wickliffe II, William
2000 “Farmers Markets Serving the Community by Linking Consumers and Farmers.” Presented at the 15th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference. Wilmington, North Carolina November 3-5th.
Crawford, Rebecca and Andreatta, Susan
2000 “Sustainable Agriculture as a Whole System.” Presented at the 15th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference. Wilmington, North Carolina November 3-5th.
Poster, Joshua; Crawford, Rebecca and Andreatta, Susan
2000 Develop a Sustainable Farming System. Presented at the 15th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference. Wilmington, North Carolina November 3-5th.
November 7-8, 2002 Urban Place: Reconnections with the Natural World Symposium “Urban Connections to Locally Grown Produce: Trends in the USA” Emory University. Sponsored by the Department of Anthropology, the Gustafson Seminar, the Department of Religion and the Hightower Fund.
Community Service Activities Related to Research:
October 24, 2002 Participated in the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Conference: On the Road To sustainable Agriculture. Presented on CSAs. Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
September, 7th 2002 Participated in the 1st Farmer Appreciation Day at the Greensboro, Curbside Farmers Market. Greensboro, NC.
May 11th 2002 Consumers Supporting a Local Agro-Food System. Presented for the Sierra Club: Sierra Fest 2002. North Carolina Chapter Annual Conference. Pilot Mountain. Stokes County Danbury, North Carolina.
May 5th 2002 Consumers Supporting a Local Agro-Food System. Presented at First Presbyterian Church. Greensboro, NC.
June 19, 2001 Taught a class on Direct Marketing Using Farmers Markets and Community Supported Agriculture at Chatham County Community College. The course was taught as part of the Overview on Sustainable Agriculture for The Sustainable Farming Program.
April 23, 2001 posters on Farmers Market research displayed for UNCG’s Earth Day Celebration. Assisted by Rebecca Crawford and Joshua Poster
Media Review of Research:
January 28, 2003 Project Green Leaf: Connections to Benefit the Family Farm. In EcoConnections. http://www.ecoconnections.ctawba.edu/greenleaf.htm.
July 26, 2002 “Deep-Rooted Beefs.” In the Winston-Salem Business Journal 4 (48):1-2.
April 2002 “CSA’s: An Alternative Marketing Channel.” In Country Folks Grower. Written by Ann Morrill Whynman. Palatine Bridge, N.Y.Page 3.
January 10, 2002 FOX 8 T.V. Story on CSAs in North Carolina
Fall 2001 “Project Green Leaf. No Farm. No Food.” In UNCG Magazine 4 (1):22-29.
July 17, 2000 WFMY T.V. Interview by Denya Cove at the Barry Patch on alternatives to tobacco and diversification.
July 21, 2000 interview by Laura Sykes from The Business Journal Greensboro. “UNCG Anthropologist gets $45,000 grant from U.S.”
July 21, 2000 interview by John Taylor from Enterprise Weekly (High Point) on farm crop diversification and marketing strategies.
July 25, 2000 WUCN – radio – interview by Mary Hartman from on farming alternatives for “The State of Things” morning broadcast.
July 26, 2000 “UNCG Anthropologist helping local farmers.” The Reidsville Review p. A3.
The overall goal of this research was to better understand the cultural relationships between the food-selling habits of farmers and the food-buying habits of consumers in a farmers market. The economics of the situation are only a part of the story. Food choice and growing practices are heavily dependent on cultural as well as economic factors. The simplest view of this relationship is that consumers and farmers are motivated mainly, or solely, by economic considerations, consumers seeking the lowest-priced foods and farmers seeking the highest return on their labor and investment. However, the above data no longer support this assumption.
Understanding what motivates consumers is critical for farmers to be able to design appropriate marketing strategies. For example, if most consumers at a farmers market are not primarily looking for inexpensive food, but are interested in knowing more about the way in which food is grown, farmers can capitalize on that fact by designing informative displays rather than by lowering their prices to compete with local supermarkets. Identifying alternative marketing strategies will allow farmers to connect with the consumers who most likely will adapt their purchasing to the farmers’ own patterns of production.
The project focused on farmers’ and consumers’ expectations, and was designed to identify ways in which the success of direct marketing can be improved. Such improvement should increase consumers’ satisfaction with the market and also increase farmers’ quality of life (whether measured solely by income or by other, non-economic factors). A primary finding of this study was that market rules of operation can interfere with farmers’ willingness to sell at the market. Clearly, market managers should consult broadly and directly with the farmers they serve to implement policies that will encourage farmer participation rather than inhibit it.
At the market we studied we found a conflict among participants who have different expectations of the market. A farmers market that tries to mimic the patterns of food availability at a supermarket (as PTFM does with its retail building and preferential treatment accorded to anchor vendors) is unlikely to be supportive of local, seasonal agriculture, and efforts to do so will not educate consumers about the seasonality of food or the labor involved in its production and marketing. Consumers come to the market to purchase fresh, quality farm products from multiple vendors to support a local farm economy rather than to save money. Creating a market that alters that experience transforms the market into something consumers might not support as strongly.
The goal of the market manager, that fresh produce should be available seven days a week at the PTFM, is very difficult for small farmers with limited resources to attain. As a result, the manager has been forced to rely on larger farmers and vendors to supply the market, putting small farmers at a disadvantage. Small farmers are able to produce quality products; their limitations are in time, capital, sufficient labor for production or marketing, and production of limited quantities.
Like other farmers markets in a similar stage of development, the PTFM must resolve an internal conflict, that of market identity (Lloyd et al. 1987). The current policies at PTFM are not supportive of small farmers, and many of whom are going elsewhere to market their products. It seems clear that the market could devise policies that would support small, local farmers, and this would be a valuable goal, both economically and culturally. Certainly, it would mirror the priorities that consumers seem to have in mind when they shop at the market.
In this study, we have identified some of the factors that attract consumers and farmers to farmers markets. On the consumers’ part, these include an interest in fresh, locally grown produce, a desire to support local farmers and the local farm economy, an interest in cooking with seasonally available foods, and enjoyment of the market atmosphere. The possibility of buying food more cheaply than at a supermarket did not seem to be an important factor, even thought Lloyd, et al. (1987:2) list this first among the reasons they give for consumers attending a farmers market. On the farmers’ part, attractive factors include access to a space to sell their products, the proximity of the market to their farm, and the number of potential customers. Furthermore, our study has shown that the farmers market itself plays an important role in structuring the relationships between farmers and consumers and in determining whether the experiences of selling and buying at the market are satisfying to them. The market is more than just a physical space for commercial transactions; rather, the market, and the policies and regulations that govern its operation, is an active contributor to the cultural dynamic within which those transactions take place. Our findings emphasize the importance of understanding the market as a context within which farmers and consumers make their marketing and buying decisions. They also point out the need for market managers to understand how their decisions may affect the success of the market by establishing a context that either satisfies or fails to satisfy consumers’ and farmers’ expectations.
Outcomes for CSA Experiences. CSA arrangements are based on a contractual agreement between a farmer and a consumer although each arrangement operates differently and may adopt any of a variety of forms. The concept is that the consumer, often described as a “shareholder” purchases a “share” or “membership” prior to the growing season.
From the comments made by the CSA shareholders in this study it is clear that they are very satisfied with their CSA experience and shares. The shareholders are very supportive of these farmers’ efforts and look forward to their seeing them on a weekly basis. Some of the suggestions for modifying CSA experience are helpful, again indicating their care and trust in the farmers’ commitment to providing good quality food through good stewardship. Farming is always a challenge, especially with the protracted dry spell and hungry deer. Even with the drought the farmers kept up their enthusiasm and provided shareholders with quality organic produce. Farmers stated they could not farm any other way. They rely on the early income to purchase seed, soil amendments and things for their farm.
Multiple educational programs were held for farmers, market managers, extension agents and consumers to better understand the potential direct marketing to consumers and thereby capitalize on an important advantage of farming near large urban centers. There were two main themes addressed in the workshops, which depended on the audience. The themes were designed: 1. to inform farmers of the results from the consumer surveys and to assist farmers participating in the local agro-food system, and 2. to inform consumers of how they can participate in supporting a local agro-food system. Additional opportunities to educate the public about supporting a local agro-food system were developed. Posters and leaflets explaining the concept of CSAs as an alternative marketing arrangement between a consumer and a farmer were presented at professional conferences, Earth Day celebrations. Social events held at the farmers markets were other venues which posters and informational materials were made available to the public (shoppers and farmers). A number of press releases were given to the local papers, informing them about the local agricultural sector.
Before getting funded by SARE for this project, there were few farmers in North Carolina with a CSA arrangement. Farmers come in and out of this marketing arrangement for a variety of reasons. However, three or four years ago it was very difficult to hook up with a farmer who was interested in incorporating a CSA as part of his/her families’ marketing plan. Since giving presentations around the state on CSAs we have many more farmers, consumers and extension agents interested in participating a CSA.
In 1998 there were approximately ten farmers in North Carolina engaged in CSAs as an alternative marketing strategy. Since this project began there are now 30 CSA arrangements in North Carolina. All the CSAs are listed on two websites hosted (that are linked) by The University of North Carolina at Greensboro- Project Green Leaf (http://greenleaf.uncg.edu) and Growing Small Farms managed by Debbie Roos, an extension agent in Chatham County (www.ces.ncsu.edu/chatham/ag/SustAg/index.html). These websites serve as places to learn about CSAs, sustainable agriculture, available resources and for consumers to hook up with farmers. Together we have been able to keep an active CSA list of participating farmers and share farm names with interested community members.
Andreatta has personally been involved with conducting workshops on CSAs. In fact, Andreatta participated in SARE’s conference entitled On the Road To Sustainable Agriculture held on October 24, 2002 at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Andreatta along with a farmer with experience growing for a CSA spoke to two full busloads, over 100 people, who self-selected to learn about CSA at this conference.
Andreatta also serves on the North Carolina Department of Agriculture Food Policy Council. This year and for the first time, the council is subsidizing low-income residents to purchase a share from one of the participating CSA farmers. Ten farmers are participating and 49 households will benefit from weekly shares for 20 weeks in the 2003 growing season.
Andreatta, Wickliffe and Martinek initiated a farmer-to-restaurant program in our community. We conducted a workshop in April of 2002 at the Guilford County Cooperative Extension Center entitled, “Sustainable Food Systems: Marketing to Restaurants and Retailers.” Over 60 participants (farmers, chefs, restaurant and retail owners, and food purveyors) attended, sharing in the common goal of getting more locally produced food on restaurant menus and store shelves. A dozen farmers are now selling to a local restaurant chain that supports five restaurants in North Carolina. This program stimulated three other independent restaurants to buy directly from local farmers and feature the local ingredients and the farm source on their menus.
From this workshop we were able to start another farmers market with the help of a local gourmet food store owner. Market rules and a steering committee were established. Since opening in early May 2002, the market has proven to be very successful, resulting in ten farmers benefiting from a weekly mid-week market, providing them with a valuable additional source of income. Consumers at this market are enjoying fresh locally grown produce as well as making the connection with their food source – the farmers. A post-harvest survey was conducted and all of the farmers will be returning to this venue for the 2003 season.
We have since been instrumental in working with city planners in establishing a downtown farmers market located at the transportation depot, a hub for Amtrak trains, the city bus and Greyhound buses. This market is due to open May of 2003 and will have sufficient space for thirty farmers and vendors to sell their products.
Areas needing additional study
Further studies and education programs on consumer interest in supporting their local food system are needed. Several questions emerge that illustrate where further research is warranted. First, how can we get more consumers to purchase directly from local farmers, putting more of a local dollar in the farmer’s pocket? Second, how can we get younger people interested in farming and direct marketing? How can we ensure that direct marketing opportunities through CSA arrangements and farmers markets do not leave out low-income residents? What policies can be put in place to better support small farmers, thereby, retaining them in the field and at the market place?
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