Meeting demand for local food in West Virginia: Do regional factors limit or enable farmer supply response?

2012 Annual Report for GNE12-041

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,877.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Grant Recipient: West Virginia University
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Cheryl Brown
West Virginia University

Meeting demand for local food in West Virginia: Do regional factors limit or enable farmer supply response?


Increased demand for local foods presents new opportunities for rural income generation in West Virginia. Local food system development efforts across the state are working to grow local markets by recruiting producers to become new vendors as well as by facilitating expansion of active vendors. Depending on how the goals and needs of non-participating producers differ from those of more actively marketing producers, different strategies may be needed to facilitate their participation and success. This study seeks to provide Extension and development professionals with desired information regarding the factors that may contribute to WV producers’ decisions to participate in and generate income through unique local food markets. Through collaboration with field professionals such as Extension agents and market managers, a survey and focus groups will be conducted to gather information about producers’ goals and perceived limitations to entering and expanding in local food markets. Results will be analyzed using statistical analysis. Discussion of results with Extension specialists and focus groups with producers and field professionals will help generate participatory conclusions and recommendations. Results will be disseminated through Extension and academic publication in order to increase the availability of information that can inform new initiatives in WV and Appalachia to address producer needs and increase rural income generation through local food markets.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1. Provide information to Extension and development professionals to help improve targeting and efficacy of interventions designed to facilitate producer income generation in local food markets.

1.1. Gather information about factors such as goals, perceived limitations, and regional characteristics that influence producers’ decisions to enter and expand in local food markets via focus groups and a survey.

1.2. Determine the factors that facilitate or limit producer decisions and ability to enter and expand in local food markets.

1.3. Generate participatory recommendations for Extension and development professionals about how to address producer goals, perceived limitations, and regional factors in order to improve success of interventions designed to facilitate producers’ participation, expansion, and successful income generation in local food markets.

2. Contribute information to practitioner and academic literature regarding the implications of producer supply response for the magnitude and nature of local food system development in West Virginia and Appalachia.

2.1. Develop report and summaries with results, recommendations, and implications for local food system and market development in WV and Appalachia.

2.2. Disseminate report via Extension forums, scholarly publication, and conference presentations.

The language of the objectives was refined slightly but content remains the same. Work towards Objective 1 is under way as we develop our methodology and tools to collect information about the factors that influence producers’ decisions to enter and expand in local food markets.


Strategic Changes to Plan of Work

As work commenced on this project, two strategic changes were made to the plan of work. First, the plan for focus groups was adjusted to enable them to be helpful not only in study design but also in the generation of participatory and field-vetted recommendations about how to utilize the survey results. Therefore, focus groups will be conducted in early 2013 to test run and adapt a draft of the survey questionnaire before it is disseminated. Then after the survey results are collected, focus groups with producers and market managers will be conducted to provide a forum for participatory analysis of results and participatory generation of recommendations that can be included in information and outreach materials to Extension professionals about how to facilitate producer participation and expansion in local food markets.

Key Collaboration and Planning Work Accomplished

Key work on planning for data collection was commenced and accomplished. This work has focused on developing outreach materials and seeking collaboration with field professionals through organizations such as the WV Farmers Market Association, WV Food and Farm Coalition, and WVU Extension. With the help of key field professionals such as farmers market managers and county Extension agents, a representative list of producers to survey is currently being compiled. By enlisting the help of these field professionals, we believe our survey will be more representative of a range of both actively marketing producers and less market-oriented producers, which will result in more meaningful and useful results. A draft of the survey questionnaire was also developed, and is being reviewed by development professionals and Extension agents in the field to improve its integrity and ease of use.

Upcoming steps

A test run of the survey will be conducted in January 2013 with a focus group of producers to test its ease of use and to get feedback on its content from producers. The survey results will be analyzed to determine the key factors that influence producers’ decisions to enter and expand in markets. These results will then be discussed with producers and field professionals and recommendations will be generated. Outreach in the form of written reports and summaries and also verbal presentations will then be conducted to present results and recommendations to field professionals and Extension for them to use to improve programs and vendor recruitment efforts to facilitate producer participation and success in local markets.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

While this project is still in the data collection phase, collaboration with key stakeholders confirms that this project has the potential to be beneficial to work focused on improving income generation opportunities in local food systems. Information gathered in the state-wide survey of producers will offer insight into producers’ goals and the limitations that they perceive to participating or expanding in local food markets. This information can help development professionals in the field such as county Extension agents and farmers market managers in their work to tailor vendor recruitment activities and market development activities to increase involvement and success of producers in local markets. The information produced through this study also enables us to provide a supply-side characterization of the magnitude and direction of the growth of our local food system that can be useful to Extension and organizations working to promote income development opportunities in the local food system. This project will contribute to greater agricultural sustainability by providing information that can improve the targeting of interventions to facilitate the success of food producers that contribute to the economic and environmental sustainability of our agricultural landscape.


Cheryl Brown
Associate Professor
West Virginia University
PO Box 6108
Morgantown, WV 26506
Office Phone: 3042935461