Where do 'localphiles' shop?
A mixed-methods case study of food-buying habits
Why, with local food’s rising popularity, do small-scale farmers report declining sales? This study used a mix of survey and interview methods to examine the priorities and buying habits of food shoppers in one midsized, lower-income metropolitan area of the U.S. Midwest. The study focuses on individual consumers’ decision-making because it aims to be useful, in particular, to small-scale farmers and advocates of their participation in local and regional food systems. Among shoppers’ stated priorities, the survey found broad support for local food and relatively low competition between price and local origin as purchasing priorities. However, findings also show an attitude-behavior gap, with only a limited increase in tendency among self-defined “local” shoppers to purchase from locally oriented venues. As explanation for this attitude-behavior gap, survey and interview data point to differential definitions of “local food” and situational barriers (primarily inconvenience and lack of variety) preventing shoppers from buying local food. One factor offsetting these barriers was past experience growing one’s own food. Study findings are used to identify particular avenues for intervention by farmers, eaters, and other food systems builders to broaden access to local food through adjustments to marketing strategies, better alignment of wholesale outlets’ practices with the priorities of farmers and eaters, and improved public education about the food system.
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