- Education and Training: participatory research
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, quality of life, sustainability measures, markets
Although sales within direct market outlets are tightening, farmers markets and CSAs remain an important outlet for small farmers to sell their produce and products, while reinforcing the importance of local agricultural connections between consumers and producers. In the Southeastern U.S., many farmers markets exist, yet anecdotal evidence and observations suggest that many Hispanic immigrant farmers sell their produce to wholesalers rather than through direct-to-consumer outlets. While direct-to-consumer outlets present their own challenges, they offer valuable opportunities for these farmers to develop their enterprises and build local consumer connections. The question remains, then: Why might they not be engaging in these opportunities?
This research project investigates the conditions informing and potential barriers facing limited-resource farmers within the direct-to-consumer market in middle Tennessee, along with the rationales behind Hispanic immigrant farmer market choices. It does so through a mixed-methods approach including surveys on area farmers markets and CSAs, semi-structured interviews with market managers and farmers, and of Hispanic immigrant farmers from a community based participatory approach. This project’s outcomes will provide valuable insights on direct-to-consumer markets in middle Tennessee, permitting targeted area stakeholders, leading to enhanced quality of life for farmers and improved sustainability of the region’s foodshed. Although this research project is focused on middle Tennessee, the methods and findings may have broader implications for direct-to-consumer markets elsewhere.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Drawing on a community based participatory research model and based on extant connections with local extension agents, create a farmer advisory group made up of 6 to 8 Hispanic immigrant farmers.
- Carry out a comprehensive inventory of farmers markets and CSAs across the middle Tennessee area.
- Through semi-structured interviews and participant observation, investigate how Hispanic immigrant farmers in middle Tennessee identify markets to sell their crops and/or products, how they obtain information to identify markets, the possibilities they observe for niche production and the means or difficulties in accessing them, what they perceive as their greatest market and production barriers, and what farmers are growing or raising.
- Based on farmers market/CSA surveys, farmer-expressed needs, and farmer advisory board consultation, analyze, present, and disseminate research.
- Contribute to generalizable knowledge, theory and practice on barriers to direct-to-consumer market access for farmers in local markets as well as a model for studying direct-to-consumer access elsewhere in the United States.