Resident and Expert Survey Findings

Demographics of Resident Surveys 

We were able to collect data from a sample representative of the Hartford population with residency, gender, age, and race. We surveyed residents from 4 of the 6 zip code areas in Hartford. We collected 13 surveys from men and 13 surveys from women. The median age for residents who took our survey was 34 years old, with a range of 22-70 years old. The racial break down of the residents who took our survey was a good representation of the racial demographics of the Hartford population.

How can we help Hartford farmers’ markets continue to grow?

The attendance at farmers’ markets in Hartford has been increasing steadily in the past few years. Previous research showed that between 2013-2017, farmers’ market attendance at Billings Forge increased from 47% to 64% when respondents attended one per month and from 12% to 25% for respondents that attend 4 times a month. One of our goals in our research was to find ways we could get this growth to continue, to help promote the consumption of local foods in Hartford. Talking to both residents and experts in the Hartford food system provided us with a great deal of information and ideas about things that could be improved to continue the growth of these farmers’ markets.  We concluded 2 primary things that could be improved to help farmers’ markets thrive in Hartford.

1. There is not a consistent and or reliable source for residents to determine what is being sold at farmers markets by day.

This was an issue that came up in both our resident and expert interviews. When talking to farmers at the Billings Forge Farmers market, there was no common way that the vendors said they promote their business. Some said they use Facebook and a few said they had websites, but none of them seemed enthusiastic about the success of these promotion methods. To try and help resolve this issue, we have created a Twitter hashtag for farmers to use when sharing where and what they are selling for residents to see all in one place. You can visit this page by clicking here, or visiting our tab that says “internet initiative.”

2. Farmers’ markets in Hartford could be condensed, to increase the number of vendors at each location. Efforts to improve Hartford farmers’ markets should be geared towards more outreach to promote farmers’ markets.

Condensing the farmers’ markets would allow more vendors to be at each location, increasing the appeal of each market to residents.  One farmers’ market organizer we spoke to suggested we should have fewer total farmers’ markets in Hartford, because there are simply too many markets with not enough vendors at each location. They emphasized that we don’t need more farmers markets, we need more outreach about the existing farmers’ markets. Another reason supporting the condensing of the farmers’ markets in Hartford is that multiple experts told us when farmers’ markets vendors become too big, they will move onto selling their produce to restaurants. It is sometimes more economically beneficial for local produce vendors to sell to restaurants than farmers’ markets due to uncertainty in sales and the ability to move product at farmers’ markets. By creating a larger market, it would resolve the shortage of vendors due to losing them to restaurants and create a more economically and sustainable market environment for local farms and businesses.

Is Internet/Social Media an Effective Way to Promote Local Foods in Hartford?

According to our expert interviews, talking in person is the most effective way to promote local foods to Hartford residents. Outreach programs, such as the SNAP street team by Billing’s Forge, have been introduced to the Hartford community to learn more about the benefits of farmers’ market. Nevertheless, this method is time-consuming and requires more volunteers’ input. Thus, we designed a few questions in our survey, aiming to determine if the internet could be used as a platform for encouraging residents to eat locally.

  • We found that 25 out of 26 surveyed residents have access to the internet on a regular basis, which shows that internet is an accessible platform for residents to gain information about food.

  • We gained a good understanding of where Hartford residents receive their information about where to shop, where to learn about healthy food, and how to prepare food. Data shows that residents highly used the internet to get information about healthy foods and recipes, but did not use it as commonly for information about where to shop.

  • Only 3 out of 26 surveyed residents used web/internet or social media to find out where to shop. The highest information sources are personal habits or word of mouth: 8 of 26 participants showed that their decisions of shopping destination are based out of habit, and six residents told us they got their information on where to shop by word of mouth.

  • The type of information source used by the residents varies based on the length of their residency in Hartford. Residents who have lived in Hartford for more than 8 years are more likely to decide where to shop based on their individual habits or the available coupons/flyers, while those who have lived in Hartford for less than 8 years are likely to ask around among friends or use social media and coupons.

Is Locally Grown a Factor Hartford Residents Consider when Purchasing Food?

One of our questions on our resident survey asked participants to choose what factors they are likely or not likely to consider when making choices about what food to purchase. Not every participant marked down their thoughts for each factor, which explains why the bars on the graph below do not all add up to the same number. This aspect of the resident survey showed us, cost was the most highly considered factors for Hartford residents when making their food choices.  This tells us that an important factor in convincing Hartford Residents to eat locally and healthy is to highlight how shopping locally can reduce food costs. Nutritional value is the second most important factor considered when making decisions about what foods to buy. One of our most surprising and valuable findings was that more than half of the residents surveyed said they were likely to consider both locally grown and environmental impact when shopping.

*Not every participant marked down their thoughts for each factor, which explains why the bars on the graph below do not all add up to the same number.

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