Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science






Interest in local food systems has increased greatly in the last 20 years. This study sought to understand what motivates customers to purchase local foods, which may be more costly and less convenient to acquire than supermarket fare. I used the life history method to analyze the formation, complexity and interrelationships of motivations behind purchasing local food. This method permitted particular attention to changes in motivations over time. The sample included twelve food customers identified by key informant vendors from one urban farmers' market in Iowa. Using a semi-structured question guide and a drawing exercise, gathered customers' oral and pictorial accounts of their food histories in face -to -face interviews conducted in the spring of 2001. Local food customers' motivations were a complex weave of moral, philosophical and social dimensions developed over a long period of time through experiences and social interactions. Childhood experiences were often reflected in adult meanings customers attached to local food. Socially engaged European travel, fine dining and educational experiences were additional themes connected to local food by the customers. This study suggests that customer motivations for selecting local foods and maintaining their commitment can be viewed as contributing to a culture of local food. Through social interactions centered on local food, customers and vendors find and create shared patterns of meaning that further constitute a culture of local food.

Copyright Owner

Britta Ann-Christin Solan



OCLC Number


File Format


File Size

130 pages

Included in

Sociology Commons