Local, natural food valued by Ingham County residents; higher prices a sticking point

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The famers' market located in the JP Penney corridor of Meridian Mall enables individuals and families to walk by and see what it has to offer. Photo by: Brent Hughes

LANSING — Despite being a windy and cold first day of spring, the weekly farmers’ market held at the Allen Neighborhood Center in Lansing on March 21 was full of energy with live music and several vendors selling locally grown and made products such as vegetables, coffee, and fresh bread.

Residents of Ingham County enjoy coming to places like the Allen Farmers Market for locally grown, organic, and homemade food that gives them knowledge of what is in their food. However, the higher prices among those goods can make purchasing them consistently more difficult than mass-produced, less expensive products at normal grocery stores.

Location of the Allen Neighborhood Center in Lansing, home of the year-round Allen Farmers Market. Map by Remington Sawade via Google Maps.

“When I can I like to support local, because that is their livelihood … I mean there’s some times things that I can’t afford because I know … it is a little pricey,” says Lansing resident Patricia Bellinger about buying local goods.

Bellinger says knowing about where your food comes from is important, “it is important to know what’s in it, and where it came from. I try to get it … grown in the local area, at least in Michigan.”

She says she also prefers the local food because of the “additives” often put in food. Bellinger says she knows lots of foods have preservatives added as evidenced by their long shelf life.

“I’d like to know that there is little preservatives, but I’d like to know if there is no preservatives, because then I know how to store it,” says Bellinger.

Others are interested in the contents of their food when it comes to additives as well. Dairy farmer and cheese maker from Onondaga, Rusty Plummer, says when people ask him about his cheeses they want to know how healthy it is for them and if his animals producing the milk are raised using healthy practices.

“They ask if I made it … but then that it’s natural, that my goats and my cows are not getting a bunch of … hormones or something like that … it’s all natural, no additives” says Plummer.

Consumer psychology expert and professor at Endicott College Dr. Anna McAlister says there is, however, some misunderstanding among consumers when it comes to their knowledge of food and the terminology used for it.

McAlister says, “A lot of people will be proud to say that they buy organic items, but if you ask them what does organic mean they actually can’t articulate it very well and often times really don’t know what that means.”

Additionally, McAlister says ultimately more people will purchase food based on the price point instead of the origin of the food.

“I think there is really, what we call social desirability, meaning that people kind of know the right thing to say when they are being interviewed… they know that it is desirable to buy local but when it comes down to it nowhere near as many people actually do that as compared to the number that say they will,” says McAlister.

McAlister also says for those with a lower-income or limited access to proper grocery stores and markets, price becomes a more deciding factor.

“When you are looking at people with a lower-income… they will buy purely based on price and nothing else,” says McAlister.

For a full list of the farmers markets in the Greater Lansing area click here to see them on the Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau website.

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