FACTORS INFLUENCING MARYLAND FARMERS' ON-FARM PROCESSING LICENSE APPLICATION BEHAVIOR
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A 2005 regulation adopted by Maryland's state health department allowed farmers to sell foods processed in their home kitchen provided they complete an 8-hour food safety education course and apply for an on-farm processing license. Although more than 100 farmers completed the course, only 25 farmers applied for and received a license. The number of licenses granted has not met expectations and the health department is continually looking for ways to improve the program.
The objective of this study was to identify factors that may influence Maryland farmers' intentions to apply for a license as well as their actual license application behavior using a model which combines two dominant theoretical paradigms - the Health Belief Model and the Theory of Planned Behavior. To test the proposed model, a mail survey was administered to farmers who completed the training, farmers who have an on-farm license, and to a systematic random sample of other Maryland farmers (n = 745). To explore reasons why the courses may not have encouraged more farmers to apply, a content analysis of the training presentations was conducted by two trained coders.
The usable survey response rate was 15% (n = 110). Using structural equation modeling, the proposed model, predicting farmers' intentions to apply for a license, was found to have marginal fit. Significant direct relationships were found between farmers' attitudes, subjective norms, and their intentions. Significant indirect relationships were found between farmers' beliefs of perceived benefits and barriers and their attitudes. Using rare events logistic regression to predict license obtainment, and a multiple regression and two correlation analyses to test the proposed indirect relationships, the same relationships were found to predict actual behavior as behavioral intentions. An additional significant relationship was found between perceived behavioral control and behavior. Few differences were found between mean responses of farmers who did and did not attend the training. The content analysis of training materials revealed few persuasive strategies were utilized during training. These findings provide insight into factors affecting farmers' decisions to apply for an on-farm license, and suggest relevant factors, concerns, and issues to address in future educational outreach efforts.