Accepted Papers:

has pdf download Tasting Trust: Building Long-Term Support for Ecological Farming through Free Samples in Shanghai  

Author:

Leo Pang (SOAS, University of London)

Paper Short Abstract:

In this paper, I discuss the meaning of the seemingly ordinary practice of handing out free samples by ecological farmers at farmers' markets. I show that free samples are not only a crucial marketing tactic but a critical means to connect peri-urban food producers to their urban target customers.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I discuss the meaning of the seemingly ordinary practice of handing out free samples by ecological farmers, who grow produce without the use of synthetic agricultural inputs such as pesticides and herbicides, at farmers' markets. I show that free samples are not only a crucial marketing tactic but a critical means to connect peri-urban food producers to their urban target customers. Based on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork at farmers' markets across Shanghai from September 2014 to September 2015, I examine the role of free samples in relationship-building between food producers and consumers. Given widespread concern over issues of food safety such as excessive levels of pesticide residue in food in China, establishing a relationship of interpersonal trust with potential customers is crucial to the economic success of the ecological farmers who do not have official organic certification. By having potential customers taste their produce, the farmers could give potential customers a better understanding of the differences between conventional and ecological produce. The farmers aimed to expose potential customers to flavours that reminded those old enough to remember of a time before the widespread use of synthetic agricultural inputs and opened the eyes of those too young to remember flavours they never thought possible. I argue that offering free samples is not simply a sales tactic; in fact, these samples are goods that have a critical social role in building long-term relationships between ecological farmers and potential customers.

Panel P032
New urban food practices and the senses in the city [Anthropology of Food]