Factors affecting symbolic and use adoption of local foods for consumers in Black Hawk County, Iowa

Tegtmeier, Erin
Major Professor
Michael D. Duffy
Committee Member
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A local food system may be an alternative to the increasingly globalized and concentrated food market and a means to augment the availability of fresh foods, create economically viable options for farmers and enhance the health of local ecosystems. Consumers are a vital component of these systems. Insight into the decision-making process surrounding the purchase of local foods can aid in efforts to build thriving local food systems. Studies on consumer attitudes show that, in general, consumers are aware and supportive of local foods. Abstract or civic factors, such as concern for the environment or food safety, are often identified as predictive characteristics. Results conflict, however, as to the influence of traditional demographic factors. This study analyzed telephone survey data of consumers in Black Hawk County, Iowa. Causative factors are evaluated within the context of a two-phase decision-making model, which distinguishes symbolic adoption, the acceptance of an idea, from use adoption, the behavioral practice of the idea. Testable variables are grouped as either sociological/civic or expediency factors. Sociological/civic factors include social demographic variables in addition to civic concerns. Expediency factors include measures of time constraints and economic variables. It is hypothesized that sociological/civic factors are relatively more important than expediency factors in symbolic adoption of local foods, and these factors must interact positively with expediency factors for use adoption to occur. Final multivariate regression models are derived. A two-stage least squares approach is used to incorporate the final prediction model for symbolic adoption into that for use adoption. Results show that sociological/civic factors are relatively more important to symbolic adoption than expediency factors, particularly the civic factors of having concerns about food safety, following environmental issues and knowing a farmer. Use adoption is more likely if appropriate interactions with the expediency variables of price-consciousness and income take place. For symbolic adopters, lower price-consciousness and lower incomes lead to an increased tendency to buy local foods. For those not indicating symbolic adoption, opposite effects occur. For both groups, a complementary interplay with the sociological factors of educational level and knowing a farmer also influences use adoption.