Oregon Producer and Consumer Engagement in Regional Food Networks: Motivations and Future Opportunities
AbstractLocal and regional food marketed through direct and intermediated channels has been increasing in the U.S., with studies of producers and consumers conducted at different places and times illuminating the trend. Oregon producers and consumers have shown long-running interest in local agriculture, with direct markets providing a well-established connection between fresh and local food. To examine motivations and barriers for the continued development of the Oregon regional food network (RFN), we conducted in-depth surveys of Oregon producers and consumers across economic, social, and environmental variables. We identify some salient characteristics of farm enterprises that contribute to the RFN through different types of marketing channels, and consumer perceptions and utilization of RFN marketing channels. By analyzing producer and consumer surveys side by side, we identify opportunities for greater integration of food system actors within the RFN if producers, supply-chain partners, and consumers come together to realize the potential in regional marketing channels, particularly sales to retail, institutions, and regional distributors with differentiated products based on place of origin. Using Oregon as an example, we find overall trends and nuanced distinctions by looking across the diverse agricultural and marketing landscapes, giving some insight into local and regional food system motivations that may also be useful to farmers, policy makers, and researchers in this and other regions.
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