ABSTRACT - This photoessay documents the emergence of findings in an ethnographic field study of a midwestern farmers' market. It focuses on three cycles: the market day, the season, and a cycle of long term field immersion. Consumer segments are differentiated by the time of day they visit the market, giving a distinctive cadance to the selling day. The seasonal cycle is characterized by increasing complexity and abundance as the growing and selling season progresses for the farmer vendors. The third cycle is that of field habituation, through which the researchers gain trust and access to informants and acquire deeper holistic understanding of the market and its participants.



Citation:

Deborah D. Heisley, Mary Ann McGrath, and John F. Sherry, Jr. (1991) ,"", in SV - Highways and Buyways: Naturalistic Research from the Consumer Behavior Odyssey, eds. Russell Belk, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 141-166.

Highways and Buyways: Naturalistic Research from the Consumer Behavior Odyssey, 1991     Pages 141-166

"TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON:" A PHOTOESSAY OF A FARMERS' MARKET

Deborah D. Heisley

Mary Ann McGrath

John F. Sherry, Jr.

[The authors are listed in alphabetical order. The first two researchers spent every Saturday, with the exception of three, from June 28 through November 1, 1986, in attendance at the Midville Farmers' Market. The third author made occasional visits to the site, served as a resource and sounding board for the ideas of the other two authors, and audited the research process.]

PHOTO #1

THE MIDVILLE FARMERS' MARKET

ABSTRACT -

This photoessay documents the emergence of findings in an ethnographic field study of a midwestern farmers' market. It focuses on three cycles: the market day, the season, and a cycle of long term field immersion. Consumer segments are differentiated by the time of day they visit the market, giving a distinctive cadance to the selling day. The seasonal cycle is characterized by increasing complexity and abundance as the growing and selling season progresses for the farmer vendors. The third cycle is that of field habituation, through which the researchers gain trust and access to informants and acquire deeper holistic understanding of the market and its participants.

INTRODUCTION AND OBJECTIVE

On June 28, 1986, three researchers embarked upon a research odyssey along a two block strip in a midwestern city, as they spent the first Saturday of the selling season at the Midville Farmers' Market. This first day of the market was the first step in an ethnographic journey that would last nineteen weeks. They would witness the emergence of a variety of recurring themes, the reinforcement of several theoretic constructs specific to marketing, and the development of relationships with vendors, customers, and city representatives.

Using a variety of research methods and media - in particular participant observation, directive and nondirective interviews of customers and vendors, development of key informants, reflective journal entries, audio recordings, photographs, and audio/video recordings - the researchers constructed a richly documented natural history of the market. In the course of the study, researchers participated in a variety of activities such as buying and selling products, as well as setting up and packing up produce and booths, in physical environments ranging from warm and sunny, through rainy accompanied by monsoon level winds, to snowy (photos 2 and 3).

PHOTO #2

A RESEARCHER, LADEN WITH GOODS FROM BEING A PARTICIPANT CONSUMER AT THE MARKET, CONDUCTS AN INTERVIEW UNDER AN UMBRELLA DURING A RAINSTORM.

PHOTO #3

A RESEARCHER WORKS AT A VENDOR'S BOOTH AS PART OF HER PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION.

THE USE OF PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE STUDY

One thousand two hundred and sixty-two photographs were made with a 35-mm single lens reflex camera using a standard (i.e., not a "zoom" lens), normal lens, and black and white film. A 50-mm lens is considered "normal" because it reproduces what we see most accurately. Photographs were printed full frame (i.e., nothing was "cropped" or removed from the original photographs while printing them in the darkroom). These consistencies in making the photographs and printing them unaltered facilitate visual comparisons between and within markets. The use of black and white photography allowed the photographer to develop and print the photos. Contact sheets were made for all the negatives. Contact sheets are made by placing all the negative strips for a roll of film in a transparent 8 by 10-inch sleeve and developing a picture from it. That is, one 8 by 10 inch contact sheet contains the information from an entire roll of film and each picture is the size of a 35-mm negative. More printing was done selectively from the contact sheets to 5 by 8-inch photographs. This close relationship with the development and printing processes adds control and helps intimately familiarize the researcher with the photographic data. Valuable insights are often gained during the printing process while the researcher examines photographs in detail. This core data base was supplemented by 16 other black and white photos and 99 color photos, for a total of 1377 photographs. All photographs in this essay are from the core black and white data base with the exception of #2, #29, and #46, which were originally made with color film.

VISUAL COMPARISONS OF DAY 1 WITH LATER MARKETS

The objective of this essay is to capture, through a combination of photographs and text, something of the significance of the opening day of the market. A deeper understanding of the events of this day is achieved by supplementing the materials collected on June 28 with notes and photographs from later dates. As the market season matured, and the vendors' wares ripened and increased in bounty and variety, the relationships between the researchers and key informants developed from cautious exchanges to comfortable, sometimes humorous and teasing, interactions. While the researchers observed and recorded a myriad of happenings on June 28, true understanding and insight into these events came at a later date, as the intimate familiarity with the Midville market developed over the course of the season.

In this essay, the focus is upon the photographs and field notes from this first day of the market. Photographs of the first market day, June 28th, are used in the first part of this paper to illustrate and document interpretations of the market day and of customer and vendor behaviors. When photographs of later markets are compared with this first day's shots later in the essay, the dates are noted. The ability to compare and contrast findings on various days, and document findings over time, became a notable benefit of long term field immersion.

Using photographs and accompanying field notes from the first market day, the cycle of a market day can be illustrated and documented, as it proceeds from set up to close. The ethnographic present tense is used in the description.

THE CYCLE OF THE MARKET DAY

At 5:30 a.m. the streets of Midville are virtually devoid of cars and people. In the emerging light of dawn a single truck is parked at the market site. A mother and her two adult sons are unpacking tables and setting up produce for a display (photo 4). They evince a degree of pride in being the first to arrive today. As they work, they reminisce about their participation in the first Midville Farmers' Market in 1975.

"There were only three farmers there that day. We went home twice for refills."

At this first market of 1986 they are selling carrots, beets, green beans, and lettuce. They anticipate that they will "sell out early," prior to the 2:00 p.m. market closing time. They complain that they have been allowed to rent double spaces in previous years, but that this year they are restricted to a single 25 foot long space. For a rental fee of $110, payable to the city, vendors will occupy this space for the duration of the market season. A total of 40 spaces are marked off on both sides of a two block long section of street.

By 6:15 a.m. there are 15 vendors setting up in the market area (photos 5 and 6). The city police and tow trucks have cleared the street of four parked cars that were in violation of posted no parking signs. As the layout of the market has changed from the previous year, vendors are jockeying for space and there is discussion of the boundaries, most notably the appropriate width, of each booth. Since this is the first market of the season, the vendors seek to configure the equipment they have brought to display and protect their wares (tables, umbrellas, shelves) to the space available, and to prepare the produce for sale (photos 7 and 8).

PHOTO 4

THE FIRST VENDOR TO ARRIVE, A MOTHER WITH HER TWO ADULT SONS, BEGINS TO UNPACK AND SET UP.

PHOTOS 5 AND 6

EARLY SET UP ON THE FIRST MARKET DAY.

As the farmers turn their booths into retail selling areas, they work continuously, yet this is a social time as well. Several of the farmers know each other and have worked side by side at this market and at others for years. The Midville Market last met eight months ago, so this first market becomes a setting for the renewal of friendships and for catching up on what has happened over the winter (photo 9). Farmers also cautiously and sadly note who is not present in a euphemistic, slightly superstitious reference to former colleagues who have lost their farms. On a more optimistic note, a conversation is overheard between a vendor and an early customer as they compare cruises they have taken the previous winter.

Customers begin arriving by 6:30 a.m., and the market is in full swing by 7 a.m., even though posters and signs posted by the city indicate that the market opens at 8 a.m. It is warm, sunny, and clear. Customers exchange greetings with vendors, whom they have not seen for eight months, and visit with acquaintances along the market midway (photo 10). A local nonprofit group sells coffee and baked goods at the south end of the street, and this area becomes a gathering place as customers consume refreshments while they socialize (photo 11).

By 10 a.m., the warm sun is engulfed by clouds, and the overcast morning becomes cooler. The crowd continues to grow, reaching its peak around 11:00 a.m.. 'Me majority of customers are white, with an estimated 10% to 15% minority population made up of Asians, blacks, and hispanics. The distribution of ages is wide and varied, with all groups being represented except teenagers. The presence of children in the infant and toddler age group is evident to consumers trying to negotiate the midway because of the many strollers and wagons in the market area (photo 12).

After noon the market becomes quieter. The crowds have thinned, and several vendors have left early after either selling out or having their stock depleted to levels too low for what they perceive to be an adequate display. The afternoon becomes hot and clear, giving both the remaining produce and the vendors who have been standing for hours a wilted appearance (photo 13). At precisely 2 p.m., the

Market Master removes the barricades blocking traffic access to the street and formally ends the market (photo 14). At a later date the researchers learn about post-market, after-hours socializing. Several vendors have lunch together at a local restaurant.

CONSUMER BEHAVIOR AT THE MIDVILLE MARKET

Examination of the photographs of the June 28 market day and subsequent interviews with key informants at later market dates reinforced the researchers' sense of the cyclicality of the market day. On this first day all of those who would eventually become key informants were present and photographed at the market. On June 28, however, the researchers were not cognizant of the role that each customer or vendor would assume in the study. The photographs of this first market were a naive attempt to capture thoroughly the visual aspects of the market. There were no specific hypotheses or predispositions associated with this first day. An attempt was made to document the event through photographs and notes. Researchers did have an acute awareness of the transient nature of the market, its customers and the day itself, and it was with this awareness that photographs were made of vendors and customers present in the marketplace. The two researchers worked separately during a significant portion of the day, and several photographs made by one researcher were of persons who later became key informants of the other.

Later interviews with several key informants allowed the researchers to characterize the customers at the market by the time of day these customers chose to attend. The following is a chart of the etic segments.

6:00 to 7:30 a.m. The Die-Hards (photo 15). These people attend every market, regardless of the weather or selection of products available. They want the freshest and the best selection.

7:30 to 9:00 a.m. Vie Sociable Die-Hards (photo 16).This group is more social than the first. They want good selection, but they also want to visit with friends. They consider themselves "early birds".

9:00 to 11:00 a.m. 7"he Very Social (photo 17). These consumers arrive when the midway of the market is most crowded. There is still fairly good product assortment, but "the best" has already been purchased.

11:00 a.m. to noon The Late People (photo 18). These people are of two types: those who complain that they are late, and those who do their market shopping after they have finished other errands. The socials have missed their friends. The purchase selections at this time period are poor and shoppers cannot be very picky.

12:00 to 2:00 p.m. The Bargain Hunters and Night People (photo 19). At this time of day more minority group members and college students are in evidence in comparison to the white, middle-aged, middle-class complexion of the previously detailed groups. This later group does little socializing and shops in a less crowded marketplace.

PHOTO 7

VENDORS DECIDE HOW TO DISPLAY THEIR WARES.

PHOTO 8

VENDORS PREPARE THEIR WARES FOR DISPLAY.

PHOTO 9

TWO VENDORS VISIT EARLY ON THE FIRST MARKET DAY.

PHOTO 10

CUSTOMERS AND VENDORS RENEW THEIR ACQUAINTANCES.

PHOTO 11

CUSTOMERS SOCIALIZE AT ONE OF TWO BAKE SALE BOOTHS.

PHOTO 12

CHILDREN IN AND WITH STROLLERS AND WAGONS FILL THE MARKET MIDWAY.

PHOTO 13

AS THE END OF THE MARKET DAY APPROACHES, STOCK IS DEPLETED, AND VENDORS AND REMAINING PRODUCE BEGIN TO WILT.

PHOTO 14

AT 2:00 P.M., THE MARKET FORMALLY ENDS

PHOTO 15

THE DIE-HARDS.

PHOTO 16

THE SOCIABLE DIE-HARDS.

PHOTO 17

THE VERY SOCIAL.

PHOTO 18

THE LATE PEOPLE.

PHOTO 19

THE BARGAIN HUNTERS AND NIGHT PEOPLE.

Certain customers note a preference to come to the market at a specific time of day.

"We come religiously at seven each Saturday."

"We're late today. I don't like the nine o'clock people. They're too pushy,"

"I usually come late, around eleven. when my other errands are finished."

In general, consumers make mention of being late, rather than of being early or on-time. Their awareness of being late does not seem to alter their shopping or socializing behavior, however. Once at the market site, they will visit if they meet their friends, and there is no observable evidence of shoppers rushing to complete their shopping in order to leave the market site.

"Look at us. We were an hour late today, and now we've stood and talked for another hour. We had better start shopping soon, or we'll never leave."

The time sense of some consumers, and certainly that of the researchers, appears to correspond to the periodic nature of the farmer's market itself. Some sense of urgency and immediacy is produced by time compression. Consumers know that the freshness of the produce is a function of this periodicity-, abundance and scarcity of individual items are daily and seasonal conditions. So, also, is the intensity and regularity of outdoor social relations governed by the seasons. Midville residents cherish the bounty of summer in the face of brutal midwestern winters, they know full well the market and its charm are evanescent. The researchers are acutely aware that they themselves must seize the day if they are to capture comprehensively the character of this periodic market.

Photographs of this first market meeting illustrate that the Midville Market is more than a place to shop for farmers' wares. Two musicians begin to play around 10 a.m., and open their instrument cases for donations (photo 20). A young man with a tricycle-type ice cream cart parks near the musicians. In the absence of customers, he begins to juggle three balls. Several photographs show customers taking a break from their shopping and visiting at the market while resting on the grass or in a shady spot nearby (photo 21). Consumers readily admit that they come to the market for reasons other than product assortment or to restock ingredients for physical sustenance.

"This is recreational shopping. I'm here to try to amuse the kids." (Comments of a father with children aged 3 and 1.)

"It's social, and people come for the gladiolus."

The cycle of this market day repeats itself on subsequent Saturdays (Photos 22 vs. 23 and 24 vs. 25).

In retrospect, it is this first Saturday that is exceptional in that customers and vendors appear to know and act out the script of the market without question after an eight month hiatus. It is the researchers who do not fully understand the plot and significance of the activities unfolding. After several weeks of building trust in relationships with informants, the researchers are able to document and interpret this script.

DIFFERING PERCEPTIONS OF ABUNDANCE AND COMPLEXITY

Photographs of the first market of the season document the transformation of an empty street into what may appear to be a cornucopia of abundance. A journal entry of June 28 notes that "the colors of the market were dominated by pinks, reds, bright greens and yellows, the colors of spring." Tables appear heaped with merchandise and consumers mention specific items they plan to purchase (asparagus, mushrooms, gladiolus, etc.). While researchers perceive bounty and abundance in the marketplace, the vendors speak of anticipated bounty nearer the late summer and fall harvest time. Vegetable farmer Mrs. Theopolis mentions that she will open a roadside stand at their farm in the fall. Fruit vendor Maggie Moran Wes to recruit an employee to help at this market later in the season, "when we have bushels of apples." The researchers better understand the significance of these remarks through observation of the late summer and autumn markets.

A series of photographs visually documents increasing in assortment, abundance, and complexity of display. Photographs 26 and 27 allow a comparison of two-thirds of Blake's booth at the first (6/28) market with one-third of his booth at the thirteenth (9/20) market. Tables evolve into two tier displays, signs are in greater evidence and detail, and produce is of greater quantity and variety. Photographs 28 and 29 compare the Wilcox booth at the second (7/5) market and the fourteenth (9/27) market. Both photographs include the entire display. Like many vendors, Wilcox's display area spills over the boundaries of his designated area as the season progresses.

PHOTO 20

ENTERTAINMENT AT THE MARKET.

PHOTO 21

TAKING A BREAK

PHOTOS 22 VS. 23

EARLY AND LATE PHOTOS OF TWO VENDORS ON THIS FIRST DAY VISUALLY REVEAL THE DEPLETION OF STOCK AND CONSOLIDATION THAT OCCURS OVER THE COURSE OF A MARKET DAY.

PHOTOS 24 VS. 25

EARLY AND LATE PHOTOS OF TWO VENDORS ON THIS FIRST DAY VISUALLY REVEAL THE DEPLETION OF STOCK AND CONSOLIDATION THAT OCCURS OVER THE COURSE OF A MARKET DAY.

PHOTO 26 VS. 27

BLAKE'S BOOTH AT THE FIRST (6/28) MARKET AND AT THE THIRTEENTH (9/20) MARKET.

PHOTO 28 VS. 29

A COMPARISON OF COMPREHENSIVE PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE WILCOX BOOTH ON THE SECOND (7/5) AND THE FOURTEENTH (9/27) MARKETS.

Photographs 30, 3 1. and 32, document the second and eleventh markets. In the photograph of the Theopolis booth on the second market day (7/5). several tables are lined up facing east. Mrs. Theopolis is waiting on a customer. On the eleventh market day (9/6) the two photographs show Mrs. Theopolis waiting on a customer on the southeast side of a booth which is now shaped like a horseshoe; her daughter is waiting on the same customer on the northeast side, and Homer Theopolis is facing east, working in the center of the booth. The increased abundance of produce, complexity of booth display, and number of signs is evident in this comparison.

Photographs 33, 34, and 35 are a series taken of Mrs. Blake's booth on the second market day (7/5), the fifth market day (7/26), and the last market day (11 / 1), respectively. The booth evolves from a straight line of tables facing east, to a much-expanded corner booth set-up with the tables facing east and north, and finally, on the last day of the market, to a free form style with produce piled wherever it can be placed.

The Jameson family often exhibits complex display configurations. On the second day of the market (7/5) the Jamesons mount a multi-level display effort (Photo 36). By the fifth market day (7/26) the booth has evolved into a horseshoe shape that, unlike other vendors' horseshoes, is open to the market and designed to entice customers to enter (Photo 37). Other vendors, as in photographs 31 and 34, enclose themselves with the horseshoe configuration, keeping customers on the "outside." By the seventh market day (8/9), the Jameson booth is the most complex of the market. It exhibits a horseshoe design around a central display area, and is open to the market. A sign invites the customers to"Walk on in" (Photo 38).

An impression gleaned from interviews is that the farmers make a perfunctory appearance at the early markets to establish their presence among their regular customers, but that they do not anticipate their busiest or most profitable market days until later in the season. Attendance figures are not as helpful in demonstrating this as they were anticipated to be. Attendance at the first market by vendors is 70%, with 28 of the 40 assigned spaces filled. At the height of the harvest season in September, attendance increases to 32 vendors, or 80% of the available spaces. Four additional farmers who participate in the market at the start of the season cease to attend due to flooding of their lands and also being "harvested out" of the crops they chose to grow, most notably corn. Consumer attendance estimates were not recorded.

HABITUATION OF KEY INFORMANTS TO RESEARCHERS' PRESENCE

Several vendors and customers became key informants during the course of the study. A picture of each of these key informants was made at the first meeting of the market, though at the time their subsequent significance to the study was not known to the researchers. Journal entries and photographs of these informants on the first day of the market are contrasted with photographs made near the conclusion of the study. The use of a standard lens and full-frame printing gives full and consistent information about the photographer's position in relation to the informant. Therefore, valid statements and comparisons about this relation can be made. The comparisons reflect the levels of trust that developed between participants and researchers, that in turn led to a negotiated or collaborative interpretation of marketplace behavior.

In the earlier pictures, the informants assume the posture of unknowingly being photographed, ignoring the photographer, or of suspicion toward the camera in particular or toward the researchers in general. In the later photographs, the friendly relationship with the photographer/ researcher is evident. The informants in the later photographs are smiling and demonstrate a tolerance of the camera and a willingness to be photographed. Differences are evident in the facial expressions, the presence or absence of eye contact and posing of the body. and the angle of the bodies with respect to the camera. Several photographs demonstrate a notable contrast between the first and later markets. A photograph on the first market day is a photograph of strangers. Photographs of vendors are distant, removed shots. Photograph 39 is a first market day shot of a vendor who was later to become a valued informant. In the background of this photo, a man is looking with skeptical curiosity at the photographer. This man, we learned later, is the market manager, Tom McKensey. Tom became another of our most valued informants. The degree of rapport between the photographer and her informant, as well as that between another of the researchers and her informant, is evident in the spatial relationships demonstrated in photographs 40 and 41, the former was made on the fifth market day (7/26), the latter on the sixteenth market day (10/ 11).

PHOTO 30 VS. 31 & 32

THE THEOPOLIS BOOTH ON THE SECOND MARKET DAY (7/5) AND TWO PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE ELEVENTH MARKET DAY (9/6).

PHOTOS 33, 34 & 35

MRS. BLAKE'S BOOTH ON THE SECOND MARKET DAY (7/5). THE FIFTH MARKET DAY (7/26), AND THE LAST MARKET DAY (11 / 1).

PHOTOS 36, 37, & 38

THE EVOLUTION OF THE JAMESON FAMILY BOOTH ON THE SECOND MARKET (7/5), THE FIFTH MARKET (7/26), AND THE SEVENTH MARKET (8/9).

PHOTOS 39 VS. 40 & 41

THE HABITUATION OF KEY INFORMANTS TO THE PRESENCE OF THE RESEARCHERS EVOLVES FROM THE FIRST MARKET (6/28), AND ALTERS OVER THE DURATION OF THE STUDY (7/26 AND 10/ 11).

Another visual demonstration of the relationship between researcher and informant is a comparison of photographs 42 and 43. The first is of Mr. and Mrs. Theopolis on the first day of the market. Mrs. Theopolis is looking at the camera in a detached, distant manner. Conversely, in the photograph on the sixteenth (10/ 11) market day she exudes warmth and friendship. She has clearly become involved in the research process. Note too, once again the photographer's position has changed. That a greater degree of intimacy has been achieved is evident in the photographer's ability to be physically close to her informant with a potentially intrusive and invasive object (i.e., the camera) without being perceived as a hostile aggressor.

Some concern has been voiced within marketing that researchers should be concerned about using audio and video recording tools because they are obtrusive, they call attention to the presence of the researcher, and they may alter behavior; and because there is an ethical issue if the recordings are made secretly, so as to be unobtrusive. However, visual researchers and audio/visual ethnographers believe that (1) certain patterns of behavior persist that will be informative, (2) a skillful audio or visual recorder will use the recording process to establish rapport between the researcher and the informants, not to spy on the informants, and (3) if the nature of the research calls for accurate on-site recording, then audio, visual, or written recording are the choices - audio and visual recording not being inherently more obtrusive than scribbling away in a notebook. In this study, a combination of visual recordings (the photographs) was supplemented with written notes and audio recordings. A limited amount of videotaping was undertaken on 7/26, the day a visiting team of researchers attended the market. in all cases the researchers explicitly revealed to informants the purpose of their study, freely answered questions, and shared photographs and notes with all involved in the study.

THE EMERGENCE OF INFORMED FIELD NOTES

Field notes of the first market may be described as naive and uninformed. An attempt is made to document as much as possible, but the commitment that the researchers have made to remain at the site for the duration of the market season reassures them that they will be able to supplement their observations or change their focus at a later date. Inventories of specific items and prices are started at the fourth market, when that information is deemed relevant. The researchers engage in fewer, but longer, conversations at subsequent markets. As relationships with key informants develop, these informants consume more of the researchers' time each week. Informants frequently watch for the researchers at the market each Saturday. One consumer informant in particular thinks about the market each week, and comes to the farmers' market on Saturday prepared with insights and stories to share with the researchers.

Researchers become more involved with the vendors as the study progresses. On the last day of the market, vendors who are key informants are thanked and given photographs of themselves made by researchers. Many vendors give the researchers gifts as well. Relationships have developed, as can be seen in Photographs 44, 45, and 46. Photograph 44 was taken near the end of the first market day (6/28). The photographer makes an attempt to move closer to her subject and is waved away with a scowl. Photograph 45 was made of Otis Plato on the sixteenth market day (10/ 11). By now a friend and wonderful informant, he poses for the photographer with an unshucked pussywillow in his right hand and the finished product in his left hand. He hasjust patiently taught her his art of shucking. On the last day of the market, she gives Otis and his wife, Andrea, some photographs made of their booth over the season. In turn, he makes the photographer a grapevine wreath with which to remember them (Photo 46). The leave-taking is an emotional experience, as one researcher notes in a final journal entry:

"I had a lump in my throat as I said good-bye to everyone. I am grateful that I have gotten to know the farmers, and I value the trust they have demonstrated toward me .... The market has changed me--the way I shop, the way I eat, and the way I do research. I will miss these people."

CONCLUSIONS

This essay illustrates how impressions formed early in an ethnographic study can, when viewed later in context, provide useful insights into the processes of interest to researchers. The changing relationships with key informants clarify and enhance several of the initial impressions formed by the researchers. These bonds help produce a negotiated interpretation of marketplace behavior. This essay demonstrates that ethnographic research is a labor intensive process that emerges over time. The incorporation of several, sometimes opposing, perspectives of a phenomenon over time yields a deeper understanding of the setting and its participants that is not evident on the first day of the market.

PHOTO 42 VS. 43

THE CHANGING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PHOTOGRAPHER AND INFORMANT IS ILLUSTRATED IN PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE MR. AND MRS. THEOPOLIS AT THE FIRST (6/28) AND THE ELEVENTH (10/ 11) MARKETS.

PHOTOS 44, 45 & 46

INFORMANT POSTURE AT THE FIRST MARKET (6/28) CONTRASTED WITH A POSE FOR THE CAMERA AT THE SIXTEENTH MARKET (10/ 11) AND A GIFT-EXCHANGE AT THE LAST MARKET (11 / 1).

On day one, we caught a colorful, noisy, fleeting glimpse of the budding market. Had we not continued to attend and observe, we might have mistaken the market as being in full flower. Our view of the vendors was as romantic and idealistic, independent, self-sufficient Americans engaged in an archaic, but quaint lifestyle. We perceived shoppers as a homogeneous group. We witnessed the market spring up, akin to a mushroom; we had no understanding of the historical and structural compost that formed its basis and nurtured its eventual blossoming.

By the last day of this nineteen week study we had seen the market mature, ripen, and culminate with the onset of the killer frost and the winter chill. Our understanding of the market encompassed not only its flowers and its fruits, but also its roots, its chaff, its fodder, and its seeds. At the conclusion of the study we had greater understanding of the issues of complexity, cyclicality, and abundance. We saw the market as a complex system, interacting with the local city government, local retailers, and several market segments in the community. We learned about the farmers' business acumen; they were recognized as marketers, rather than merely producers. Their market planning was evident in what they chose to grow and where they chose to sell their goods, as well as their displays, layouts, pricing strategies, point-of- purchase advertising, and competitive analyses. it was over the long term that we appreciated the cyclicality of the market day and the seasonality of the market itself. By the end of the market we appreciated the relationships between vendors, customers and vendors, and between customers, we found ourselves caught up in the relationships themselves. We ended the experience having grown with and becoming part of the market itself.

PHOTO 47

'THE WALKING PLANT." A CUSTOMER LEAVES THE MARKET ACCOMPANIED BY A NEWLY ACQUIRED COMPANION.

----------------------------------------

Authors

Deborah D. Heisley
Mary Ann McGrath
John F. Sherry, Jr.



Volume

SV - Highways and Buyways: Naturalistic Research from the Consumer Behavior Odyssey | 1991



Share Proceeding

Featured papers

See More

Featured

Small but Sincere: The Impact of Firm Size and Gratitude on the Effectiveness of Cause-Marketing Campaigns

Eline L.E. De Vries, University Carlos III Madrid
Lola C. Duque, University Carlos III Madrid

Read More

Featured

Market Structure and Firm Engagement in Divisive Political Issues

Chris Hydock, Georgetown University, USA
Neeru Paharia, Georgetown University, USA
Sean Blair, Georgetown University, USA

Read More

Featured

The Impostor Syndrome from Luxury Consumption

Dafna Goor, Harvard Business School, USA
Nailya Ordabayeva, Boston College, USA
Anat Keinan, Harvard Business School, USA
Sandrine Crener, Harvard Business School, USA

Read More

Engage with Us

Becoming an Association for Consumer Research member is simple. Membership in ACR is relatively inexpensive, but brings significant benefits to its members.