Factors associated with support for local food systems: The significance of class position

2005 Annual Report for GNC04-025

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2004: $8,315.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Grant Recipient: Ohio State University
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Jeff Sharp
Ohio State University

Factors associated with support for local food systems: The significance of class position


To explore consumer support for sustainable agriculture in Ohio, five focus groups with a diversity of consumers were conducted during 2005. An additional two focus groups were conducted in 2006. Initial analysis of the five focus groups conducted in 2005 suggest there are both different and similar motivations associated with support for local and organic agriculture amongst consumer groups in Ohio. There also appear to be different levels of knowledge or understanding of the term “organic.” In relationship to the consumption of local and organic foods amongst these consumers, there also appear to be differences. Perceived barriers to consumption for certain groups include both access and price, especially for organic foods. Amongst a few of the consumer groups, there appears to be a memory of how foods used to taste and their understanding of local and organic.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The research project has several outcomes. The first is to engage a diversity of consumers in the discussion of sustainable agriculture. The focus groups will contribute to a better understanding of motivations or factors related to support for local and organic agriculture and consumption of these foods. They also will identify perceived barriers to accessing these foods. The focus groups will also assist in better understanding the perceived needs for developing sustainable local food systems and will assist farmers interested in marketing their products in new and innovative ways and help them to identify opportunities to expand their markets into areas where that may pose significant constraints.


– Identification of a diversity of participants not particularly involved in sustainable agriculture or alternative food system development willing to discuss food and farming issues in a group setting.

– To explore consumer support for and consumption of local and organic foods in Ohio, five focus groups were conducted in 2005 with a diversity of consumer groups.

– Analysis and comparison of focus group responses is currently in-progress to better understand market potential for these foods.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The most significant contribution this research will have is to provide market-based data on consumer attitudes about alternative food systems. This information will be useful to farmers and professionals interested in sustainable agriculture. The qualitative findings will be utilized to support alternative food system development efforts in Ohio and to develop future research questions addressing this topic. Summary reports and presentations will also be developed to share the findings with the OSU Extension Sustainable Agriculture Team, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association, Innovative Farmers of Ohio, Second Harvest Foodbanks, the Greater Columbus Foodshed Project and focus group participants. Another impact this research has is the engagement of a diversity of consumers in discussions about food and farming. The results from this study will also contribute to academic literature on the topic of alternative food systems. A paper presentation based on this research has been accepted for presentation at the 2006 Rural Sociological Society Annual Meeting in Kentucky. Manuscripts will be developed for review by journals such as Agriculture and Human Values, Rural Sociology, Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, and the American Journal of Alternative Agriculture. In terms of outreach to Ohio stakeholders, a topical report based on this research is in development for publication on the Social Responsibility Initiative website at The Ohio State University. Finally, this research will be a part of the project coordinator’s doctoral dissertation. The qualitative data will assist in better understanding or corroborating quantitative results from a 2004 Survey of Ohioans on food and farming issues.


Jeff Sharp

[email protected]
Assistant Professor
The Ohio State University, Rural Sociology Program
2120 Fyffe Road
Columbus, OH 43210
Office Phone: 6142929140