Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Agricultural Economics

Major Professor

John R. Brooker

Committee Members

David Eastwood, Robert Orr


Limited market access is a major problem facing many small fruit and vegetable producers. Developing viable markets in which small producers can sell their produce is of particular importance to Tennessee growers who are small relative to producers presently utilized by the commercial-wholesale market system for fresh produce. Increasing amounts of research are being collected on the possibil-ities of various forms of direct-marketing operations as alternatives for small producers. One such alternative form is sales of locally grown produce through urban supermarket outlets. The purpose of this study was to gather information from urban consumers as to the receptability of locally grown produce offered for sale in their local supermarket. Two methods were employed to address this objective--an in-store pricing and labeling experiment and a mail-in questionnaire survey. Vine-ripened Tennessee-grown tomatoes were the locally grown produce item tested. The in-store study was conducted in three Knoxville supermarkets in July of 1986. The in-store experiment involved incremental price adjustments to the Tennessee tomato in order to test the sensitivity of consumers to price changes of the locally grown tomato relative to a base price for the tomatoes that the store normally stocked. In conjunction with the pricing treatments, the Tennessee Country Fresh (TCF) logo was used to identify the origin of the locally grown tomato. Therefore, a possible bias among consumers for or against locally grown tomatoes could be revealed. Each purchaser of bulk display tomatoes was given a postage paid mail-in questionnaire. The questionnaire was designed to assess consumers' attitudes, perceptions, and preferences for locally grown produce in general and TCF tomatoes specifically. Socioeconomic information of purchasers was also collected. The questionnaire was designed not only to gather information concerning attitudes of consumers with regard to locally grown produce, but also to provide possible insight into purchasers' actual marketplace behaviors during the in-store experiment. Results from the in-store experiment revealed a preference among the purchasers in this study for locally grown tomatoes. This preference was based on physical attributes of the tomatoes. The logo had a positive effect on increasing sales of the locally grown tomato. Some consumers in the study preferred the locally grown tomato, and they were willing to pay a somewhat premium price for the Tennessee- grown tomato. Results from the questionnaire survey reinforced the in-store experiment results. Consumers stated that origin of fresh tomatoes was of concern to them, and therefore they were influenced by the TCF logo to buy the locally grown tomato. Consumers rated the TCF tomato better than other tomatoes in terms of freshness, taste, and appearance, which lead a majority of the purchasers to state that they would patronize a store which featured TCF produce.

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