Buying Local Makes People Feel Connected, Study Says

We’ve always known it: Buying local isn't just about the food, it's about the relationships. Now research proves it.

by Dani Yokhna

People shop local not only for the good food, but for the good relationships, a study out of the University of Iowa finds.
Premier of Ontario Photography/Flickr

Every now and then, researchers discover something makes me go, “Well, duh!” A study recently released by the University of Iowa is an example of such research: They found that people aren’t into local food just for the food but because it gives them a sense of belonging, too. I think it’s a nice reminder for all of us involved in producing food on a small scale.

Ion Vasi, an associate professor at U of I’s Department of Sociology and Tipple College of Business, and Sarah Rynes, a professor of Management and Organizations in the Tipple College of Business, found consumers who shop at farmers markets and join food co-ops not just for the food but because they enjoy knowing who grows their food and feel a part of a community that shares their passion for a healthy lifestyle and a sustainable environment. In a press release, Vasi said the local food market is a “moralized market,” combining economic activities with social values. For many locavores, supporting local foods is an act to preserve their local economy against the threats of globalization and big-box stores.

The “well-duh” factor comes in for me because I have gotten to know quite a few farm customers over the past three years and know the importance of building relationships to be true. At one farmers market the farm I work for sets up at, customers have least 10 other farmers they can buy their tomatoes—five are certified-organic. We all sell our tomatoes for the same price, and in some cases, other farmers’ produce looks better than ours. The customers come back to us because of the relationships we’ve built with them and the community that has resulted. It sure beats shopping at Kroger. (Often, we have a lower price than Kroger’s organic produce, too!)

What other reasons have you found locavores shop with you? Or what reasons do you have for supporting local foods? Let me know in the comments!

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