a1 Agricultural Policy Analyst, Northeast-Midwest Institute, 218 D Street SE, Washington, DC 20003, USA.
Consumers interact with each other and vendors on a social level at farmers' markets. Some consumer social interactions, such as enjoying the market, talking with farmers about seasonal products and making a trip to the market a family event, are significant and positive influences on spending at farmers' markets as identified through a survey of 216 shoppers at eight farmers' markets in Maine. Vendors at these markets were also surveyed, with 65 of the 81 vendors being farmers. Through direct farmer/consumer relations, farmers indicated a willingness to reduce chemical inputs to meet customer demands, suggesting that customer interaction has the potential to affect environmental quality. By examining the linkages between producers and consumers at a direct market—often embedded with a sense of local identity—there is the potential to better understand social interactions that can support the economic and environmental sustainability of local agriculture.
(Accepted April 03 2006)