South Carolina’s 2013 Making Small Farms into Big Business provides a good example of a study that sets the stage using secondary data, before filling in information gaps with primary data collection. To create an overview of the economic conditions in the state, the team compiled a variety of data from secondary sources including: the USDA Economic Research Service, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census of Agriculture, County Business Patterns, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Education Statistics, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and the National Hydrography dataset. Since these data do not offer a comprehensive view of local conditions, the team also conducted key informant interviews with over 150 practitioners across the state. Questions focused on emergent local foods activity, the state’s role in shaping food systems, infrastructure requirements, regulatory barriers to local food trade, and availability of credit. To collect further primary data, the team conducted a survey of specialty farmers. This contained a variety of questions useful for both qualitative and quantitative analysis: multiple choice, check-all-that-apply, open-ended questions requiring text answers, and 5-point Likert-scales. By corroborating these secondary and primary data, the team came up with a strategic approach that addresses all levels of the state’s food system (see figure 7). The result was a $9.85 million investment plan for local foods, announced by state officials in December, 2013, that centered upon strengthening networks of food businesses.
For more information: www.crcworks.org/scfood.pdf