Getting the Right Data
The final report states, “When conducting an economic impact or contribution analysis in IMPLAN, it is important to consider when the existing industry parameters that represent its spending activities are sufficient for analysis and when those parameters should be updated through supplemental data collection.” The spending patterns present were based on national fruit farming averages. Researchers were aware that there are significant differences in general spending patterns between large fruit farming operations in Washington state (for example) and small apple farms in New York state.
In order to account for this issue, the team sought primary data to ensure the most accurate, representative spending patterns. Surveys were identified as an efficient method of data collection. The survey was developed to match business categories with the IMPLAN sectors and distributed both online (via Qualtrics) and in written formats. NYAA assisted in administering the survey by contacting members via electronic channels and in-person requests. Despite reminders and a significant push by NYAA, survey response rates were incredibly low. Only 25 of 600 commercial apple growers responded at all, and of the 25, only 4 responses were sufficient for analysis. Low response rate was attributed to insignificant participation incentive and poorly-timed distribution (early fall, “Harvest Time”).
With the survey producing insufficient results and several months lost, the research team was faced with the difficulty of finding a new primary data source. This search led to the Lake Ontario Fruit Team (LOFT). LOFT, a partnership between Cornell University and the CCE Associations in five NY counties (Wayne, Orleans, Niagara, Monroe, and Oswego counties), strives to maintain profitability and facilitate improvement of fruit farming in their area through applied research. The Cornell researchers used the data collected by LOFT for their own Fruit Farm Business Summary and IMPLAN’s local purchase percentages (LPP) to create a representative apple farming spending portrait.