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Do educational farm tours reduce concerns of individuals with greater concern about how food is produced?

R. R. Peters




Do educational farm tours reduce concerns of individuals with greater concern about how food is produced?
T. A. Ferris1, R. R. Peters*2, E. A. Richer3, R. G. Slattery2, C. W. Anderson2, M. J. Rupp3, K. M. Miller3. 1Michigan State University E. Lansing, MI, 2University of Maryland College Park, MD, 3Ohio State University Extension Wauseon, OH.

Breakfast on the Farm educational tours were held for consumers in Maryland and Ohio in 2019 with an objective of determining if tours increase trust in farmers and modern food production. Using an exit survey, participants indicated their level of trust that farmers will do right in managing various aspects of dairy farms. Using a 5-pt scale from Very low trust to Very high trust, respondents provided their level of trust BEFORE and AFTER the tour to self-assess changes in trust. Individuals were asked if they purchase organically produced products on a 5-pt scale from Never to Always. Those reporting purchases of organic, Never, Rarely, or Sometimes (n = 324) were coded non-organic consumers, and those who responded Very often or Always (n = 105) were coded organic consumers. Mean level of trust for farmers Caring for the environment for non-organic consumers was 4.02 before vs. 4.49 after with an increase of 0.476 while organic consumers had a lower mean of 3.69 before vs. 4.37 after with a greater increase in trust of 0.682. Similarly, mean levels of trust for farmers keeping milk safe before and after were 4.30 vs 4.62 and 3.90 vs. 4.49 for non-organic and organic consumers, respectively. Likewise, means for Caring for food-producing animals before and after were 4.13 vs. 4.55 and 3.75 vs. 4.41 for non-organic and organic consumers; and for Using antibiotics responsibly before and after were 3.95 vs. 4.38 and 3.53 vs 4.22 for non-organic and organic consumers. All changes in means between before and after responses for non-organic and organic consumers were significant (P = 0.0001) with a paired-t-test. For organic consumers, means increased most for Using antibiotics responsibly. Differences in means between non-organic and organic consumers ranged from 0.33 to 0.48 before and 0.12 to 0.26 after with the greatest difference after for using GMOs responsibility. These tours increased trust significantly in both groups and although buyers of organic products may have different perspectives before their visit, their trust became closer to those who do not purchase organic.

Keywords: educational farm tour, consumer perception, organic consumers.