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Research and Education Support for the Renewal of an Agriculture of the Middle
Community and Leadership Development
The decline of the mid-size family farm sector in American agriculture poses threats to the agri-food system and to rural communities. This project examines alternative production and marketing strategies to rejuvenate the mid-size family farm sector.
2009 Project Description
In September, 2008, I joined this multi-state project to replace Dr. Larry Burmeister as a representative of the University of Kentucky. Since then, my research activities for this project focused on addressing Objectives 1, 3 and 4. With my students in SOC 517: Rural Sociology, I first conducted the face-to-face survey of shoppers at five retail sites, including the Lexington Farmers Market, Good Foods Market and Cafe (member-owned cooperative), and two Wal-Mart Superstores, on their concerns about food. We collected 332 survey questionnaires. Findings of the survey will help us: (a) estimate consumers' demand for differentiated agricultural products, particularly among locally produced products (Objective 1); (b) understand consumers' perception/satisfaction with alternative marketing systems (Objective 3); and (c) improve alternative marketing systems that will address consumers' anxiety over key food safety issues (Objective 3). The survey results were presented at a public seminar on UK campus in November 2009. A press release was published in various Internet news sites. WUKY, a national public radio station, aired an interview on "Dr. Greg Davis On Medicine" show. A website was created which include my previous work in Lexington Community Food Assessment and current work on consumers' concerns about food.
Second, I worked with various community organizations in Lexington, Kentucky to explore a possibility for establishing a food policy council in Lexington or the Bluegrass region (Objective 4). A joint research proposal to support the process of creating the Food Policy Council was submitted to the Sociological Initiative Foundation in December 2008.
First, the survey found that: (a) people in Lexington are concerned about food issues; (b) shoppers shop at specific locations for reason and Wal-Mart shoppers and Good Foods/Farmers Market shoppers are distinctively different; and (c) although these two groups differ in their food concerns, regardless of where they shop, many people in Lexington want to see more local food being sold at grocery stores and restaurants. Second, the survey helped to train 15 students in SOC 517 with social science research skills. None of them, including graduate students, had ever conducted a survey research project. Third, the above findings from the survey have generated enthusiasm among producers, distributors, and retailers alternative marketing systems (e.g., Lexington Farmers Market and Good Foods Market and Cafe). The knowledge generated from the survey has already been used to develop a marketing strategy by the Lexington Farmers Market and Good Foods Market and Cafe, generate further research projects by other colleagues on the campus, and created opportunities for deepening University-community partnership surrounding food and sustainable farming issues.