Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Community Development and Applied Economics

First Advisor

Shoshanah Inwood

Abstract

The vast majority of earned agricultural dollars in Vermont come from the dairy industry, but with volatility in the market in recent years, including rising costs of feed and the fluctuating price of milk, state officials have begun to recommend diversification of farm activities to instill resiliency into the system. The research presented in this thesis explores two avenues for diversification, farm-to-consumer sales of raw milk and local beef production.

The second chapter utilizes diffusion theory to understand the prevalence of raw milk consumption in Vermont, develop a profile of the raw milk consumer, document the motivations of raw milk consumers, and identify sources and channels of information for raw milk consumers. The results of a general population telephone survey indicate that 11.6% of those surveyed reported consuming raw milk and are on average educated, middle-aged, and middle-income earners in small households. Compared to US Census data, there are no demographic differences between raw milk consumers and the average Vermonter. Motivations for consumption include preference for raw milk's flavor, believed health benefits, and knowing or being a farmer. The primary sources of information are dairy farmers, friends, family, and co-workers. The primary channel through which information is obtained is person-to-person discussions. We conclude by discussing the implication of our findings on food protection trends and future research

The third chapter investigates beef processing in the state and through the Agriculture of the Middle paradigm develops a firmographic profile of processors, identifies the frequency of use of a set of industry best practices and articulates the current opportunities and barriers to beef processing. The results of the firmographic profile show that most processors utilize both fee-for-service processing and buy-in processing and that each model is an equal percentage of revenue for business. Most processors indicated clearly demarcated busy and slow seasons with no change in the number of employees during these times and little change in operation capacity. Most processors are involved with some industry best practices and most had at least one anchor client to stabilize their operations. There are opportunities in marketing and opening up new markets but the seasonality, infrastructure and consistency of supply are and may remain a hindrance to this advancement. We conclude that there is little difference between models and that most farmers and processors are already in the stages of developing positive and equitable business relationships and that the future of beef production in Vermont is strong.

Language

en

Number of Pages

106 p.