One of the highlights of the GROW Rewards Farmer Conference last December was the final day’s consumer panel. Hosted by The Center for Food Integrity’s Allyson Perry, consumers recruited from the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area were asked to share their perspectives and answer questions around the agriculture industry, the food supply chain, and agriculture’s influence on sustainability.
Some of the main questions asked in the panel included whether consumers are more likely to purchase items based on their organic and GMO status, what the terms “organic” and “GMO” mean to them, how they review food labels, and how they view farmers. The results were pretty eye opening for several farmers in the room. The panelists primarily shared that they were willing to spend more on items that were labeled as GMO-free or organic. Their opinions of farmers ranged from dedicated to untrustworthy, and from hardworking to “a heavyset man in overalls.” This last opinion, understandably, received a large laugh from the farmers in the audience.
Due to the panelists residing in Florida, one of the biggest pieces of feedback we heard from farmers was, “Their opinions are different than ours due to them living in a coastal state. Residents of the Midwest, we are sure, would have opinions like ours.”
Because of this feedback, we decided to conduct a similar survey at the Downtown Des Moines’ Farmers’ Market. The Downtown Des Moines’ Farmers’ Market takes place on Saturday mornings from the first Saturday of May until the last Saturday of October. The market attracts approximately 25,000 visitors each weekend, with most of the attendees being from Iowa, followed by from the Chicago and Minneapolis areas. The average consumer is a Caucasian individual between the ages of 24-35, with an income of $65,000+.
Landus had a booth three times this Summer, on July 30, August 20, and August 27. At our booth, we invited marketgoers to take part in our survey, by voting with kernels of corn on four either-or prompts that were similar to the questions posed to our Florida panelists. For their participation, voters were given a Landus-branded koozie or chap stick.
The prompts were:
1a. When grocery shopping, I often choose organic options over non- organic.
1b) When grocery shopping, non-organic options are fine by me.
2a) I do my best to avoid buying foods that contain GMOs.
2b) I am unconcerned about purchase items that contain GMOs.
3a) I only buy antibiotic free meat.
3b) I buy my meat based on other factors than the antibiotic status.
4a) Today’s farming practices are unsustainable for our environment.
4b) Today’s farmers are taking good care of our land.
After the three weekends, the results were:
Based on the approximately 550-600 people that voted in our poll, this data shows:
- The amount of people who are fine purchasing non-organic items is 120% higher than those who primarily choose organic options.
- The number of people who are unconcerned about GMOs is 90% higher than those who avoid foods with GMOs when they can.
- The sum of people who don’t buy their meat based on antibiotic status is 244% higher than those who only buy meat labeled as antibiotic free.
- The amount of people who believe farming practices are unsustainable is 19% higher than those who think farmers are taking good care of the land.
When you boil it down, what this data shows is that marketgoers (and by data representation, primarily Midwesterners) are not as concerned as our Florida panel participants about organic and GMO-free food options, but some still are. Some were shocked that the “unconcerned” options had any votes at all, and some shared that they wished there was a third, middle of the road option. Many said they buy organic and GMO-free when they can, but their food purchasing decisions ultimately comes down to cost and availability.
We also did have several guests who were well-versed in the field of agriculture and who were on to our “trick” questions. We agreed with them that all meat is required to be antibiotic free, that we would have little-to-no food options without GMOs, and that often these grocery store choices are based solely on the label rather than the product itself.
We learned we have the most work to do when it comes to our sustainable farming question. This question by far generated the most discussions at the market and is the one that was most requested to have a third voting option. They stated that they believe some farmers are good stewards of the land, while others are not, and they were curious what Landus, as an ag cooperative, is doing to help our farmers take part in more sustainable efforts.
All in all, we have some work to do when it comes to changing the narrative on the current opinions shared. Through our efforts in the Landus Innovation Connector and the GROW Solutions Center, Landus is striving to better connect our farmers to the overall food chain and the end consumer. Our Ag Data Locker team is gathering data to tell the story of our farmers’ sustainable efforts, so that it can be passed down to our consumers. This will give them a clear picture of what they are purchasing, where that item came from, and how it was grown is a way that puts their mind at ease. We also have several programs available for our farmers that help them make more informed, more sustainable, and better for their bottom-line decisions regarding their farming practices.
Have any questions or are curious about anything mentioned? Contact 515-800-GROW, or InnovationConnector@Landus.ag.