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  Conducting Research
    Original research constitutes an important part of Food for Thought. Systematic research enables us to understand the character and capacity of the local food system, the needs of area food producers, and consumer priorities when making food choices. Conducted in conjunction with Kenyon College courses and independent studies, research also provides important opportunities for students and faculty to conduct original work and to meaningfully engage the surrounding community. Much of this work becomes the basis for public presentations and exhibits that educate us all about food, farming, and rural life.
  What’s for Dinner? (2006-2007)
    Nine students from a year-long sociology seminar examined the implications of our food choices for us as individuals and as a community. Drawing on extensive filed research, students considered issues from nutrition and health to political economy and the environment. This work resulted in a nine-part tabletop display that now appears in restaurants, school cafeterias, medical offices, libraries, and assisted living centers.
  Where Does Our Food Come From? (2005–2006)
    Ten students in a year-long sociology seminar engaged in systematic field research to document and interpret the local food system and its links to the global food economy. Students conducted field visits and interviews with farmers, a livestock auction manager, employees at a meat processor, the manager of a farming cooperative, workers at a local food distributor, restaurant chefs, and consumers. The class fashioned these materials to construct a twenty-two-panel   
The exhibit Where Does Our Food Come From? explores food production, distribution, and consumption in Knox County.  
touring exhibit exploring the food system from farm to table, entitled Where Does Our Food Come From?
  Political Economy of Food (2005–2006)
    A senior American studies major conducted original research on the history of the local food system, with emphasis on the changing role of the Buckeye Candy & Tobacco Company building, which for many years housed a food-distribution operation for the county. Exploring   
Until World War II, chickens were so commonplace in neighborhood back yards that grocery stores advertised the sale of feed.
city directories, county histories, and newspaper advertisements for groceries over the past century, and conducting interviews with former Buckeye Candy Company employees, this student traced historic trends, including the decline of neighborhood poultry production and the county’s increasing reliance on distant food sources. This research informed his plans (including design models) for renovation of the Buckeye Candy & Tobacco Company building as a local food warehouse, community kitchen, and retail outlet. He presented his research publicly at Kenyon in conjunction with the completion of his senior thesis and in several venues throughout the county. Working closely with the Knox County extension office, he is currently completing a survey of the needs of local food producers, in order to refine plans for the facility.
  Consumer Interest in Local Foods (2006)
    Two students in anthropology, working closely with their faculty mentors, are conducting extensive survey and field research on consumer interest in local foods. They will engage consumers at the weekly farmer’s market, the county fair, and several area grocery stores. Their statistical analysis of the data, complemented by in-depth interviews, will enable us to more precisely gauge public interest in local food and inform our developing marketing strategy. At least one of these students plans to continue her research next year as a senior honors project.
  Roadside Food Sales (2006)
    Nowhere is the continued vitality of a local food system more evident than in the handmade signs along rural roads that advertise “FRESH EGGS 4 SALE.” To establish the economic and social significance of grassroots entrepreneurs, two students in environmental studies are conducting summer research on these roadside sales. At each location, the students collect data on the products sold, level of production, consumer base, and economic impact for the family.The students also take photographs of each sign they encounter. The photos will be used in future marketing initiatives, and the producer information will be included in an expanded edition of the Rural Life Center publication HomeGrown: A Guide to Local Food Products in Knox County, Ohio.
The handmade signs along rural roads indicate the continued vitality of a local food system.
  Gambier as a Model HomeGrown Village (2002)
    Gambier, home to Kenyon College, offers a unique opportunity to examine the promise and challenges involved in creating a local food system. The village is home to a wide variety of institutional buyers, including a grocery store, several restaurants, elementary school and college cafeterias, and a catering business. A senior sociology major conducted interviews with local businesses and discovered significant interest in local foods. However, a variety of problems—dependability of supply, distribution, and price—hampered the ability to purchase local products. In 2002, insufficient consumer demand limited the motivation of businesses to overcome these problems.