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Strengthening Our Food Economy

The Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) at NC State University is a nonpartisan public policy organization that connects North Carolinians across sectors, regions and perspectives to find solutions to the state’s emerging critical policy issues, resulting in a more vibrant and prosperous future for all.

Farm Aid 2022 Data

In fall 2022, IEI partnered with Farm Aid, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping farmers thrive. The goal of the partnership was to better understand the priority interests of Farm Aid festival participants when it comes to strengthening the agricultural sector. 

As North Carolina’s largest sector, IEI has a vested interest in understanding the issues impacting agriculture and community perceptions of those issues. The partnership with Farm Aid, and their signature event held in Raleigh on September 24, 2022, was two-fold. First, using IEI’s social media platforms, exhibitors in the festival’s Homegrown Village were interviewed at the festival about the emerging issues and opportunities in the sector. IEI also surveyed festival goers about the issues they think are important for a thriving food economy and to address the inequities among farmers, consumers, and eaters. Sixteen potential issues were presented and participants were asked to select their top priority. Of the 18,349 individuals who attended the festival, 300 (1.6%) responded to this question on a post-festival feedback survey. While not statistically significant or representative of the general population, the data does help us begin to paint a picture of where some Farm Aid festival goers think Farm Aid and IEI can focus their respective future efforts.

Table 1: Responses to the 2022 Farm Aid Festival Survey

Buying direct from family farms17558%
Farm to table initiatives15552%
Nurturing new and beginning farmers14749%
Water and watershed conservation13946%
Addressing climate change issues13344%
Future farmer education12542%
Soil conservation12241%
Consumer Education11538%
Addressing land loss10635%
Community food systems10635%
Government support9732%
Addressing issues related to poverty9431%
Anchor institutions (hospitals, schools, etc.) purchasing directly from family farms8227%
Ensuring the diversity of NC farmers7124%
Urban agriculture6120%
Leveraging internet access and technology for farming and agriculture5217%
(N = 300)

IEI supplemented the Farm Aid survey data by asking the same questions of those in IEIs network, generating an additional 49 responses. These respondents were primarily white (94%) and male (59%). Priorities shifted only slightly, with addressing land loss as the number one priority among these respondents. While not statistically significant, we do know that there were some differences in priorities based on the gender of these respondents. For example, female respondents were more likely to prioritize addressing climate change, government support and consumer education over male respondents, who were more likely to prioritize water and watershed conversation, soil conservation and farm to table initiatives.

Table 2: Greatest difference in priority interest by gender

Addressing climate change issues65%41%24%
Government support60%38%22%
Consumer education80%59%21%
Water and watershed conservation55%76%21%
Soil conservation50%66%16%
Farm to table initiatives55%69%14%
(N = 49)

With both surveys taken together (N=349), the top five issues of interest remained:

  • Buying direct from family farms
  • Farm to table initiatives
  • Nurturing new and beginning farmers
  • Water and watershed conservation
  • Addressing climate change issues

While only suggestive, the data from these surveys can be used as a launching point for conversations to better understand where community interest lies when it comes to a thriving food economy and begin to identify programs and policies that can help strengthen the agriculture sector.

NC State Resources