Do Affluent Urban Consumers Drive Direct Food Sales in the Northeast United States? A Three-part Analysis

Keywords: Local Food Systems, Direct Marketing, Spatial Analysis, GIS, Panel Regression


The last century has seen steady decline in the number of farms and ever-worsening concentra­tion of economic power in the food system. In more recent decades, agricultural sales directly to consumers have grown, raising questions about the role of economic privilege and its spatial distribu­tion in supporting direct marketing. We address this question in a three-part analysis of 216 counties in nine Northeast states. First, we com­pare four direct-sales indicators and their common covariates among county types defined by metro­politan status and adjacency to metro/nonmetro borders. Second, we map four direct-sales variables over these county types. Third, we construct panel regression models with county as a fixed-effect in order to examine the influence of county-level household income on direct agricultural sales while controlling for other county-level variables shown to have an influence: population, vegetable produc­tion, farm size, and number of farms. Together, these three perspectives—bivariate, spatial, and multivariate—show that economic privilege is a factor in direct food sales, but not necessarily a driver. The variability across the region and the different patterns associated with different direct-marketing variables indicate that both researchers and practitioners would benefit from strategies sensitive to context, contingency, and change over time.

Author Biographies

Amy Guptill, The College at Brockport, SUNY
Department of Sociology, The College at Brockport, SUNY; 350 New Campus Drive; Brockport, NY 14420
David A. Larsen, Syracuse University
Department of Public Health, Food Studies and Nutrition, Syracuse University; 344D White Hall; Syracuse, NY 13244
Rick Welsh, Syracuse University
Department of Public Health, Food Studies and Nutrition, Syracuse University; 542 White Hall; Syracuse, NY 13244
Erin Kelly, Utica College
Department of Biology, Utica College; 1600 Burrstone Road; Utica, NY 13502