September 14, 2014

Upcoming Lecture: "The Human Dynamics of Engaging in Local Food Systems: A Farmers' Market and CSA Consumer Perspective"

James Farmer is an Assistant Professor in Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies within the School of Public Health. Farmer will be presenting his lecture, The Human Dynamics of Engaging in Local Food Systems: A Farmers' Market and CSA Consumer Perspective, this Tuesday at Finch’s Brasserie. A researcher of sustainable behavior, Farmer studies sustainable food systems, land conservation, and consumer behaviors in local food systems such as community-supported agriculture (CSA’s) and Farmer’s Markets.

Could you tell us about your lecture?

This lecture asks the question as to why do people engage or not engage in the two venues of CSAs and Farmers’ Markets. I try to gain a sense for what barriers might be in place that constrain or limit access--be it economic, cultural, or practical.

What I’m going to present on is data we collected in 2010 across the state of Indiana. We visited twelve Farmers’ Markets located in Bloomington, Madison, Richmond, surrounding areas of Indianapolis and northern parts of the state. We collected data from market consumers and people subscribed to CSA’s. We also collected data from people across the state that did not participate in either CSA’s or Farmers’ Markets. From these surveys, we assessed the values of those consumers.

What were some of the trends you saw among those who went to the Farmers’ Market?

Something like ninety-two percent of those who subscribed to CSA’s also go to the Farmers’ Market but only seven percent of those that go to the Farmers’ Market subscribe to CSA’s. Another thing is that people who subscribe to CSA’s are highly educated--around fifty-five percent had a graduate degree. That doesn’t reflect the normal population. Around forty-eight percent of CSA members had an annual household income of more than ninety-thousand dollars--which, the median household income right now is around fifty-thousand dollars in Indiana. There are some factors and issues of privilege. But there are a lot of CSA’s doing innovative things like changing the payment scheme and allowing for “ working shares” where members can work on the farm in exchange for part of their share. Many now offer subsidized shares as well.

And this is contrary to making one full payment at the beginning of the season, correct?

Exactly. That method has its benefits for the farmers but can sometimes limit the people that can engage with it. Proximity was another huge issue for those trying to attend the Farmers’ Market. For people who did not go to the Farmers’ Market, the closest market was about twice the distance than those who did go. It’s a convenience issue and we can’t have farmers markets on every street corner.

Most participants in our survey were younger. The CSA participants were notably younger with forty-four being the average age whereas Farmers’ Market participants were a little bit older. Ethnicity was predominantly white or caucasian--which is reflective of where the markets were located. There is a larger minority population in the Northwest part of the state but at that time there was only one farmers market within the Gary area. Now there are more markets in that region. If we conducted research again we may see more ethnic diversity.

Would that be attributed to an increase of Farmers’ Markets in general?

In the mid-70’s there was around nine markets in Southern California and now there are at least one dozen in L.A. County alone. It has grown an amazing amount. Between 1994 and 2012, there has been a four-hundred and forty percent increase in Farmers’ Markets across the nation. For CSA’s, it’s more difficult to give a percentage. The first two CSA’s emerged in the mid-80’s. Now the USDA indicates there are now twelve-thousand in the US.

Farmers’ Markets saw a decline in the late 1800’s and this was followed by a growth of grocery stores and supermarkets. The culture of the country was transitioning and markets kept declining. Farmers’ Markets hit the bottom in the 70’s--that is when there was the fewest markets on record. Part of their re-growth was due to an act passed by Congress promoting the distribution of excess food that farmers were producing. Some of the older Farmers’ Markets you see today were started around that time--one of them being the Bloomington Farmers’ Market.

What are some opportunities that are coming up for CSAs and Farmers’ Markets to make them more accessible?

Many Farmers’ Markets are now accepting SNAP and WIC benefits. For the past couple of years in Bloomington, the Community Farmers’ Market have provided a program where they double consumers’ market bucks. If you use eighteen dollars of your SNAP benefits at the market--it will be doubled to thirty-six dollars. Through donations and grants, the city has been able to offer that extra supplement to try and make these types of markets more accessible.

Stop by Finch’s Basserie this Tuesday, September 16th at 6:30 pm to hear more about CSA’s and Farmers’ Markets within the Bloomington community. Also, be sure to check the College of Arts and Science’s Themester Event Calendar to view a listing of upcoming lectures and discussions.

Stone Irr
Themester 2014 Intern

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