Examining the Influence of Farmers’ Market Managers Perceived Roles on Business Opportunities for Small- and Moderate-size Farms and Access to Healthful Foods for Low-income Households

Project Overview

GS13-124
Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2013: $6,479.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Grant Recipient: East Tennessee State University
Region: Southern
State: Tennessee
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Deborah Slawson
East Tennessee State University

Annual Reports

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Education and Training: focus group, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: market study, marketing management
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, community services, leadership development, local and regional food systems, public policy, social psychological indicators

    Abstract:

    A study evaluating how NC’s farmers’ market managers’ motivations influence SNAP/EBT availability and business opportunities for farms found no association between managers’ motivation scores and SNAP/EBT availability. The study did find a significant, positive association between business motivation and the number of local farmers participating at markets. Findings suggest logistical constraints may preclude offering SNAP/EBT at markets despite managers’ motivations.

    Introduction

    Farmers’ markets are important components of local food systems and they convey benefits to farmers and consumers. Farmers’ market customers benefit from the opportunity to interact directly with local farmers, and perceive that food sold at farmers’ markets tends to be fresher, less expensive, and higher quality than food purchased in supermarkets.1

     Since 1970, the number of farmers’ markets in the US has grown from 340 to 7000, and the number more than tripled from 2000 to 2012.2 While they are gaining popularity, not all farmer’s markets are successful business operations. For example, while Oregon experienced the creation of 62 new farmers’ markets from 2000 to 2007, the state had a net gain of only 30 markets due to concurrent markets failures.Young markets are especially at risk for failure as they work to attract an appropriate balance of farms and customers.3

     Farmers’ markets are endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for their potential to increase access to healthful food for groups at risk for poor diet quality, like low-income households.4 Intervention studies have documented improved dietary intake in low-income individuals participating in the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (FMNP) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at farmers’ markets.Farms benefit from participating in these programs, as they are able to attract a customer base that would otherwise be unable to purchase their products.In 2011, farms nationwide redeemed $11.7 million in SNAP benefits, representing .02% of all SNAP redemptions in the US.7

     Despite the potential for simultaneously increasing access to healthful food and expanding business opportunities for small- and moderate-size farms, only about 25% of farmers’ markets offer SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) (the mechanism by which SNAP participants can use their benefits) at their markets.8  Combined with other barriers to farmers’ market access for low-income consumers, such as transportation issues, cultural barriers, and lack of awareness of the benefits of farmers’ markets, the limited availability of opportunities to use SNAP/EBT at markets could prevent a large contingent of the population from shopping at farmers’ markets.6

     While the methods for accomplishing the two goals of 1) improving business opportunities for small- and moderate-size farms and 2) expanding access to healthful foods among low-income households are well documented, the impact of managers’ perceptions of their roles in addressing these goals has not been evaluated.9 To develop and implement comprehensive strategies for ensuring farmers’ markets’ success in facilitating business opportunities for small- and moderate-size farms and expanding access to healthful food for low-income households, it is important managers’ motivations to achieve these goals, and the barriers and facilitators to achieving them.

     

    Project objectives:

    The purpose of this project was to evaluate how managers' motivations influence 1) business opportunities for small and moderate size farms and 2) access to healthful food for low income households. The specific aims of this study follow: Aim 1: Examine associations between managers' motivations related to being facilitators of business opportunities for small and moderate size farms and farmers' market vendor recruitment, sales, and customer counts. Aim 2: Examine associations between managers' motivations related to being promoters of healthful foods and farmers' market Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Electronic Benefit Transfer (SNAP/EBT) availability and participation.

    We hypothesized that compared to their counterparts: 1.) Managers who are motivated by providing business opportunities for small and moderate size farms foster greater business opportunities for these farms evidenced by farmers' market vendor recruitment, sales, and customer counts; and 2.) Managers who identify as promoters of healthful foods in their communities are more likely to operate programs that facilitate access to their markets for low income households evidenced by SNAP/EBT availability and participation.

    Objective 1: The first objective of this study was to develop survey items assessing North Carolina's managers' motivations related to facilitating business opportunities for small and moderate size farms and access to healthful food for low income households. While there is extensive literature describing different farmers' market organizational structures and managerial roles, and farmers' market manager surveys are widely available, there are no surveys or studies exploring managers' motivations.

    Objective 2: The second objective of this study was to administer the surveys to all farmers' market managers identified through the North Carolina CTGP.

    Objectives 3 & 4: The final objectives of this study were to use the results from the NC manager survey to examine 1) associations between managers' motivations related to being facilitators of business opportunities for small and moderate size farms and indicators of these goals reported by the managers (i.e., market vendor recruitment, sales, and customer counts) (Objective 3) and 2) associations between motivations related to being promoters of healthful foods and SNAP/EBT availability and participation(Objective 4).

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.