Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Applied Economics and Statistics

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Felipe de Figueiredo Silva

Committee Member

Dr. Debabrata Sahoo

Committee Member

Dr. Michael Vassalos

Committee Member

Dr. Sarah White

Committee Member

Dr. Catherine DiBenedetto


Across the Southeastern United States, producers in the agricultural industry wage a constant struggle between combating negative economic impacts and discovering economic opportunity. Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) represent a crisis with wide-ranging economic impacts. The management of HABs presents a critical challenge for addressing the level of knowledge (LOK) and adaptability of Extension agents. Conversely, the emergence of markets for local and organic produce represents a burgeoning economic opportunity for producers. The growing trend of including more kale in the everyday American diet demands an assessment of those opportunities for local producers.

To identify the WTP for organic and local kale, a survey was designed and distributed to 200 consumers in the Southeastern US and a conditional logit model was used to obtain the estimates that consumers are willing to pay a premium of $0.40 per bunch of organic and $0.33 per bunch of local kale. These findings show that there is demand for local and organic produce in this region, especially at a premium rate, which indicates that there is room for farms to expand organic production and sell products locally.

Using data from a survey of Extension agents during a training session, this study identified shortfalls of Extension readiness and results of training techniques on management of HABs. Using a pre- and post-training test approach, the results indicated that there are a few regional disparities in South Carolina’s Extension programming. It also indicated that formal training practices provided agents from various backgrounds with increased levels of knowledge, while stabilizing the weakest performing groups and reinforcing the experts. The results highlight the need for a standardized training program and continuous education.

Available for download on Friday, May 31, 2024