U.Va. Students Present First-Ever Survey Research on Charlottesville City Market

November 15, 2011

Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story by Brevy Cannon:

November 15, 2011 — Roughly 5,500 people attend the Charlottesville City Market each week. Two-thirds of them drive to the market, while 20 percent walk. The most popular purchases are vegetables, fruits and prepared foods.

Those are just a few of the findings of a survey conducted this summer by a student research team from the University of Virginia's Jefferson Public Citizens program, in collaboration with Market Central, a nonprofit made up of vendors and patrons of the city market. The goal was to learn not only who shops at the market, but also what its strengths are and what can be improved.

"In the 38-year history of the city market, this is the first rigorous survey research about the market and its shoppers, thanks to the U.Va. collaboration with Market Central," said Kathy Kildea, a leader of Market Central.

The first public presentation of the survey findings Sunday at CitySpace on the Downtown Mall attracted about 30 people, including several vendors. A discussion followed about the market's future.

The results will be presented again Nov. 16 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Great Room of the Jefferson Area Board for Aging, 674 Hillsdale Drive. Refreshments will be served. Complete survey findings are available online.

The survey results were presented by the JPC student researchers: Natalie Roper, a third-year government major in the College of Arts & Sciences; Erica Stratton, a second-year considering a major in urban planning in the School of Architecture; and Carla Jones, a graduate architecture student who led the research team.

Jefferson Public Citizens is a comprehensive academic public service program that integrates students' service and research experiences throughout their time at the University.

During public discussion over the past year about determining a permanent location for the market, it became evident that there was no reliable data about the market's economic impact, popularity or market goer attitudes, Jones said. "We hope that this data will provide a valuable public perspective on the decisions regarding the future of the market, and its importance to the community."

Over seven weeks this summer, the team asked every seventh person who passed their tent at the market to fill out a survey. With 261 responses with this sampling technique, the survey offers a statistically valid representation of the 5,500 average weekly market attendees, explained Paul Freedman a professor in the College's Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics and a leader of the U.Va. Food Collaborative who helped supervise the survey design along with the U.Va. Center for Survey Research.

The survey found:

•    The most popular purchases at the City Market are, in order, vegetables, fruits, prepared foods, flowers and plants, and cheese and eggs. The least popular are handicrafts, which 74 percent of market patrons reported rarely or never buying, compared with 96 percent who sometimes or often buy vegetables.

•    96 percent of marketgoers said it was moderately or very important that their food be locally grown or produced.

•    About 35 percent consider food grown within 100 miles to be "local" food, while about 30 percent consider 50 miles as the defining line for "local" food.

•    31 percent of patrons report spending, on average, $21 to $30 per visit, followed by 21 percent spending $11 to $20 per visit, and 17 percent spending $31 to $40. The overall average spent was $21 to $30 per visit.

•    More than 75 percent of marketgoers sometimes or often combine their trip to the City Market with a visit to the Downtown Mall.

•    On a given day, 30 percent of people come alone to the market, while 64 percent come with one or two other people. Two-thirds travel around 10 minutes to get to the City Market; 75 percent never bring children to the market.

•    About one-third of marketgoers attend the market every week. 

•    The leading reasons people cited for attending the market were, in order, to purchase fresh food, to support the local economy, to purchase healthy food, to know where their food is coming from and to enjoy the atmosphere.

•    The most important features to have at a future Charlottesville City Market location were, in order, ample parking, walking accessibility, proximity to downtown, accessible by public transportation, a city atmosphere and areas for eating/socializing.

•    The most popular months to visit the market, in order: August, July, September, June.

The survey is part of the "Have a Stake in the Market!" project, committed to encouraging community involvement in deciding the future of the Charlottesville City Market, Jones said.

During the listening session following the survey results presentation, the research team collected several poster-size pages of feedback, which will be summarized and made available on the "Have a Stake in the Market!" website, Roper said.

— By Brevy Cannon

Media Contact

H. Brevy Cannon

Media Relations Associate Office of University Communications