Farmers' Perspectives on the Adoption and Impacts of Nutrition Incentive and Farm to School Programs
AbstractRecent increases in consumer demand for local food have resulted in more opportunities for food to be purchased in close proximity to where it is produced. However, local markets can be challenging retail outlets for farmers and not uniformly affordable and accessible to all consumers. Farmers market nutrition incentive (FMNI) and farm to school (F2S) programs are two community-based initiatives that support farmers while simultaneously lessening the burden of local food access for lower income populations. In this study, we explore farmer perceptions, barriers to adoption, and impacts of FMNI and F2S programs. A survey was developed based on the Diffusion of Innovations theory to assess (1) the key factors that influence adoption of FMNI and F2S programs; (2) farmer perceptions of the most significant barriers to program adoption; and (3) the influence of non-economic impacts on farmers’ motivation to participate in those programs. A total of 155 Mid-Atlantic fruit and vegetable farmers completed the survey. Participating farmers perceived FMNI and F2S as providing advantageous social impact and various economic opportunities. However, participants and non-participants had differing perspectives on program complexity, compatibility with their business model, and the degree to which others have succeeded when participating. The most significant barriers relate to issues with product pricing, customer engagement, and logistics. Three-quarters of farmers ranked social/community impacts as most important to them. A deeper understanding of farmers’ involvement in FMNI and F2S programs will help address barriers and modify program components to increase economic, social/community, and environmental impacts.
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