My background in terms of food and agriculture relates to being from South Dakota and connected to agriculture. I went to Grinnell College in Iowa, pursuing my interest in farmers and decisions on the land, production choices and how they were affecting the environment, and also how consumers viewed these choices.My Master's was at University of Michigan. I did a study that has influenced my future work. The research looked at consumers' willingness to pay more for coffee given its label; did it matter whether the coffee was grown in shade canopies, labeled as organic, etc.?
We conducted a study at two retail outlets to determine how consumers responded to shade-grown coffee. There was a new label with product packaging that talked about the eco benefits of growing methods in traditional shade canopies as opposed to those of hybrid plants, describing how a lot of the biodiversity in tropical trees was being destroyed. Would consumers pay more for a less productive growing method that was more environmentally friendly? Consumers in our focus group said, 'yes, of course we would.'