Year of Publication

2018

College

Public Health

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (M.P.H.)

Committee Chair

Dr. Sarah Wackerbarth

Committee Member

Dr. Richard Ingram

Committee Member

Dr. Mark Swanson

Abstract

The food system in the United States has witnessed significant challenges resulting in food security and safety concerns, environmental damage, economic distress, and a decline in our population’s health. While the last fifty years showed a drop in land and workforce dedicated to farming, industrialized farms are producing an overabundance of cheap corn that directly supplies inexpensive, unhealthy foods leading to American’s diets falling short of recommendations for good health, thus contributing to the obesity epidemic. This study utilizes an upstream approach to learn from farmers’ ability to grow good food that promotes healthy people, environments, and communities. Specifically, the study evaluated the perceived (1) barriers that impact farmers’ ability to produce healthful food and (2) facilitators for supporting fruit and vegetable growers. Primary data was collected using a cross-sectional study design that included surveys completed by Kentucky produce farmers. Survey respondents identified the top three barriers as labor access (68%), pests and disease management (55%), and grocery store supplier standards (52%).The facilitators identified include Kentucky Proud (72%), cooperative extension (68%), and farmers’ market incentive programs (54%). Further challenges and facilitators recognized were dependent upon the farm’s size. The basis of the identified challenges are federal policies; as such, a whole-system analysis of these policies that will ease the burden for produce growers is needed. The significance of this research contributes to understanding the Commonwealth’s agriculture workforce as it relates to cultivating a healthful food supply and recommendations for future research that promotes the health of Kentuckians.

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