Date of Award

1-1-2009

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Geography and Environmental Resources

First Advisor

Duram, Leslie

Abstract

This study sought to assess southern Illinois farmers market consumers' interest in and reasons for supporting local food. The exploratory and descriptive approach to this study is to provide significant insight into various consumer dimensions for supporting local food. This helps seek meaning to consumer actions and identifies issues that concern them regarding the agrifood system. There were no explicit expectations as this was an attempt to unearth theory from survey data. Data was collected by administering surveys to four farmers markets, each in different counties, in southern Illinois. This research revealed important community definitions of local food by geographic region. The majority of survey participants defined local as southern Illinois. Geographical linkages exist between survey responses and place. There are interesting comparisons between rural to urban farmers market consumers. The key dimensions for a viable local food system in this study represent the categories of factors that relate to the importance consumers place on local food. The farmers market consumers key dimensions for supporting local food are the following: Quality, Loyalty, and Enrichment. This can aid in marketing differentiated product `quality' schemes that can add value to products. These are solutions that help stabilize markets for farmers trying to subsist in the local food system therefore, maintaining consumers' access to sources of local food.

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