Consumer Perceptions of the Connection Between Food Production and Climate Change at Five Farmers’ Markets in North Carolina
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Farmers’ markets have been increasing in number across the United States since the 1970s, rising to 4, 685 in 2008. An alternative form of agriculture has increased along with the rise in farmers’ markets, focused on sustainable farming practices and civic engagement. Many reasons have been identified for increased support of alternative food systems, including the ability to purchase fresh foods of high quality, to support local farmers, to address environmental concerns, and to avoid mass production that can lead to food security problems. This study examines the main reasons for shopping locally that were identified by respondents at five farmers’ markets in North Carolina. In particular, focus is placed on environmental reasons for shopping and on whether an effort to limit personal or household climate footprints is part of the decision to shop at farmers’ markets. In 2005, the agricultural sector in the United States was responsible for 7% of total greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide (7260 Tg CO2 eq). Sustainable agriculture is capable of lessening greenhouse gas contributions to global climate change through farming practices that avoid petro-chemical pesticides and fertilizers, that adopt reduced tillage techniques, and that limit fossil fuel-based inputs. Survey results showed that most respondents did not shop at farmers’ markets to reduce climate footprints, but did state that environmental concerns were important in the decision to shop locally at markets. Evidence of support for sustainable farming practices from respondents could encourage more farmers in the state to adopt sustainable farming practices. The most significant reasons given for shopping at farmers’ markets were to purchase fresh foods of high quality that were healthy for consumers, and to support local farmers. Information from and education by farmers about their farming practices may help inform more market customers of agricultural effects on the environment.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
local food production
global climate change
qualitative research methods
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