You are here

Key Topics

Use Case Observations from Grinnell Farmers' Market

From my visit to the Grinnell farmers' market on August 11, 2006, I designed both a template for interactions between vendors and customers, and a set of use cases depicting these interactions.

In all interactions between vendors and buyers, there are two constants: the customer walking over to the stand, and the customer leaving the stand. After these obvious aspects of the interaction, there are three variables in any vendor-customer interaction: amount of time spent speaking with the vendor, amount of time spent examining the goods on offer, and the amount of goods ultimately bought by the customer. A fourth variable would be the topics discussed by the vendor and customer (where the goods were grown/made, how much they cost, etc.); unfortunately, my position as an observer did not allow me to watch the interactions closely enough to observe interactions in such detail.

Given this template for buyer-seller interactions, all use case observations differ in only the extent to which each of the three variables is present (I designed the list of constants and variables in buyer-seller interactions following my use case observations, not prior to them. I noticed in my observations that all interactions differed in only these three areas, which induced me to create a list of possible variables). Interactions also differ in the characteristics of the customer and the goods sold at the particular stand.

Some of the more common interactions I observed included: (Though each of these interactions were observed more than once, a common gender/age (ages are my estimates) of the customer is included, along with a typical vendor station where the interaction was observed)

Note: Along with every use case description, I have attached a diagram, located at the end of this document. Description titles correspond with diagram titles (for example, Use Case Observation 1 is depicted graphically in the attached .GIF document with the same name).

Use Case Observation 1: 45 year old female customer glances at goods while passing by produce stand.

(On a scale of 1-10)

Time spent speaking with vendor: 0
Time spent examining goods on offer: 0
Amount of goods bought: 0

Use Case Observation 2: 40 year old male customer talks extensively with vendor at produce stand, then buys a good.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 10
Time spent examining goods on offer: 10
Amount of goods bought: 5 (only one good was bought, but on a scale of 1-10 in the goings-on in the market, this falls in the middle).

Use Case Observation 3: 30 female customer asks question of vendor at crafts station, then leaves.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 2
Time spent examining goods on offer: 2
Amount of goods bought: 0

Use Case Observation 4: 20 female customer buys a good at kettle corn station, without asking any questions.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 0
Time spent examining goods on offer: 1
Amount of goods bought: 5

Use Case Observation 5: 60 female and 60 male customer speak with produce station vendor for a while, while examining goods, then buy a good.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 8
Time spent examining goods on offer: 10
Amount of goods bought: 5

Use Case Observation 6: 50 female customer examines goods at produce station, then buys something.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 0
Time spent examining goods on offer: 8
Amount of goods bought: 5

Use Case Observation 7: 40 female customer examines goods at baked goods station, then leaves.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 0
Time spent examining goods on offer: 5
Amount of goods bought: 0

Use Case Observation 8: 55 male customer speaks with vendor at produce station extensively, then leaves.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 10
Time spent examining goods on offer: 2
Amount of goods bought: 0

Use Case Observation 9: 20 male customer asks a question of vendor at produce station, then buys good.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 2
Time spent examining goods on offer: 2
Amount of goods bought: 5

Use Case Observation 10: 45 female customer asks several questions of vendor at produce station while examining goods, then buys a few different goods.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 8
Time spent examining goods on offer: 10
Amount of goods bought: 10

"Conceptualizing US Food Systems with Simplifying Models" and the LFEG Project

This paper, entitled "Conceptualizing US Food Systems with Simplifying Models," by Axel Aubrun Ph.D, Andrew Brown Ph.D, and Joseph Grady Ph.D, focuses on the creation of "simplifying models" to allow Americans understand the "big picture" of food systems. Three points, in particular, stick out to me in terms of their relevance to our LFEG project:

[The simplifying model] provides a concrete image of the system as a whole, and helps people move beyond their default focus on the individual experience of food. [p. 4]

A goal of our project is to help both consumers and producers understand that their buying and selling decisions have an extended impact on and entire food system network. When a customer makes a decision to buy food from Wal-mart, his decision effects more parties than simply himself and his family--who eat the food, and Wal-mart, who profits from his decision. Also affected are local producers of food, who do not receive his money, other customers who want to buy local food, but may find the supply of such foods going down when demand is low, etc. Our models will show the interconnectivity of all players in a food network, allowing these people to see how their decisions effect others, moving away from individual experience of foods to a broader view.

Many, if not most, of the components of food systems are not visible to the average person. A systems view allows those components to stay in mind, because they make sense and are part of a coherent picture. [p. 8]

Similar to the first quote; consumers must understand that their decisions affect many parties, not simply those that are involved in the immediate transaction. The producers of the food one buys are often forgotten in the buying process, as they are not visible when food is bought and sold in a supermarket. Yet, these people are a crucial part of the food system. As much as possible, the production of food should be visible to all consumers, who will be able to make a more informed decision when seeing the big picture of food production.

The natural tendency of the public (maybe the American public in particular) is to look for individual solutions to problems, with a strong emphasis on personal responsibility. Problems of sustainability occasionally lend themselves to individual solutions, but in most instances require collection solutions – an approach this is very compatible with a systems perspective. [p. 9]

The need for increased use of local foods in a collective problem that requires a collective solution. In order for local foods to become more prevalent in our society, their must be a collective movement to demand these foods. From a "big picture" perspective such as the Local Food Economy Game, buyers can see how they can use their individual actions to become part of a collective that can inspire change. They will be able to see how the landscape of food production might change if many consumers demanded local foods. Hopefully, collective action will no longer seem like an unattainable goal, but rather a feasible movement that can be brought about by the conscious decision-making of like-minded individuals.

Keywords: