Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Farmers' Markets in Rural Communities: A Case Study

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Farmers' Markets in Rural Communities: A Case Study

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Background: Although the potential health benefits of farmers markets have been discussed for years, there is a dearth of literature to aid health educators in advocating for the development of local farmers markets. Purpose: The purpose of this manuscript is to present a case study of a rural farmers market in southeast Georgia with emphasis on operational procedures and customer satisfaction. Methods: A mini-ethnography was conducted over a seven-week period using participant observation, document review and brief interviews. Results: Observational results suggested the farmers market operates smoothly and has resulted in high levels of customer satisfaction. Challenges should be addressed, including the seasonal nature of farming and attracting those who are not already motivated to eat healthy. Innovative strategies for reaching consumers throughout the year include taking farmers markets online. Discussion: An ecological approach such as farmers markets, which reach of hundreds of rural customers each week, represents a legitimate population-based approach to addressing obesity. Translation to Health Education Practice: By working with communities to develop local farmers markets, health educators in rural communities can help increase local capacity for healthier lifestyles.

Am J Health Educ. 2012;43(3):143-151. Submitted March 27, 2011. Accepted December 31, 2011.

BACKGROUND

Over 33% of U.S. adults aged [greater than or equal to] 20 years and almost 19% of U.S. children aged 6-19 years are obese. (1,2) The steep increase in the prevalence of obesity over the past several decades has become a considerable public health concern because of its association with serious, life-threatening illnesses. (3) People who are obese are at greater risk for diseases like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease; and obese children are becoming victims of these diseases that traditionally were seen in adults. (3,4)

Obesity disproportionately affects minority, low-socioeconomic-status (SES) and rural populations. (5,6) African American adults living in rural areas have the highest obesity prevalence rates of all groups studied. (5) American children living in rural areas are 25% more likely to be overweight or obese than children living in metropolitan areas. (7)

Why rural residence increases the risk for obesity is unclear. Rural communities tend to be populated by people who are at greater risk for obesity due to age and low SES. (8) On the other hand, the physical or structural environment of rural communities may present challenges to healthy levels of physical activity and good nutrition. (7,8)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended 24 specific environmental and policy strategies for communities to implement for obesity prevention. (9) The CDC strategies are specifically designed for communities and local governments to implement and were selected based on available evidence of promising community interventions. (10) One of these strategies calls for communities to "improve the availability of mechanisms for purchasing foods from farms." (9-10) Farmers markets are one such strategy. Farmers' markets are gaining attention as a potential intervention that addresses each level of the socio-ecological model, suggesting the potential for farmers' markets to serve as one component of a multi-level, comprehensive obesity prevention effort. (11-13) Farmers' markets are consistent with a "community resiliency" approach to addressing health disparities through the emphasis on providing equal access to affordable, healthy food options. (11) At the individual level, farmers markets have the potential to improve fruit and vegetable intake, a behavior linked to the prevention of obesity and related chronic diseases. (14) A recent review of the literature found some evidence that farmers' market participation was associated with increased fruit and vegetable consumption despite the need for better-designed studies. …

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