Taste, food quality top reasons

Farmers’ market shoppers surveyed in a University
of Nebraska study rated taste and quality, followed by nutrition and
price as their reasons for choosing locally grown produce, said Jerry
Jost, speaking on behalf of the Kansas Rural Center at the 2007
Sustainable Agriculture Conference held recently at Kansas State
University.
The study, “Attracting Consumers with Locally Grown Products,” which
was conducted by the Food Processing Center at the university in
2001, also found that shoppers buying meats from local producers
cited food safety and quality as their number one and two reasons for
shopping at the farmers’ market, he said.

The assessment was funded by the United States Department of
Agriculture and done at the request of The North Central Initiative
for Small Farm Profitability. More details are online at
www.farmprofitability.org/local.pdf.

With the number of farmers’ markets across the United States growing,
up from 455 in 1946 to 3,706 in 2004, Jost credits the local markets
with linking people with agriculture and what he calls, “bringing the
community to the table.”

In 2006, he said, more than 60 markets were included in Kansas State
University Research and Extension’s annual state directory of the
local markets.

Why the growth in farmers’ markets and interest in local foods?

“Knowing where your food is coming from has become increasingly
important since 9-11,” Jost said. Food safety and security is tied to
homeland security and among the reasons given for purchasing locally
grown foods.

In rural and suburban areas, he said, local vendors often are friends
and neighbors. In more densely populated areas, regular shoppers also
can take advantage of the opportunity to get to know local growers
and vendors they see on a weekly basis.

Prices at the local markets are typically competitive, Jost said.
Selecting produce and buying a quantity that suits your household
also can yield a cost savings.

The markets are educational, in that vendors who sell locally grown
meat and produce usually are willing to offer tips for choosing,
using and storing the fresh foods, Jost said.

Shoppers should not assume, however, that locally raised meat and
produce is organic. Those whose operations have been certified by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture as organic, however, may display
evidence of their certification as a marketing tool.

Offerings at local markets are expanding, said Jost, who reported
that some markets offer baked goods, arts and crafts, bedding plants,
cut flowers, seasonal decorations, and even an inviting outdoor café
or coffee spot.

Shopping at farmers’ markets – at home and on vacation as well – can
provide social opportunities to visit with friends and neighbors and
meet new people, while also sampling local culture in an enjoyable
atmosphere, he said.

More information on farmers’ markets and choosing and using locally
grown foods also is available at county and district K-State Research
and Extension offices and on the Extension Web site:
www.oznet.ksu.edu.

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