Career professional takes leap across the Atlantic to study agricultural economics
Maria Berikou was born and raised in a rural farming community in Greece and became interested in agricultural economics after engaging with farmers in her area.
“I became acquainted with the economic uncertainties that farmers face and their livelihood worries,” said Maria. “This sparked my interest in the economics of agriculture, agricultural markets, and the development of rural areas.”
Maria already had a solid foundation in economics, earning a bachelor’s and master’s in economic and business strategy at the University of Piraeus in Greece. She even had a 20-year professional career under her belt. However, her interest in studying the agricultural side of economics remained.
After sharing her thoughts with professors at the Agricultural University of Athens, they suggested she look into Purdue’s Agricultural Economics Department. Following her heart (and some encouraging advice), Maria applied and was accepted into the Master’s Program in Agricultural Economics at Purdue.
“Purdue was my first choice because of the department’s high quality,” said Maria. “The program is rigorous and gives you both, new valuable knowledge and the skills to pursue further studies and research, or a professional career in the field. It motivates you more.”
Maria, along with other graduate students in the department, attended the 2022 Indiana Farm Management Tour
Since arriving at Purdue, Maria has been heavily engaged in agricultural economics research and specifically has been focused on the topic of consumer behavior, which looks at the various ways consumers make choices and decide whether to proceed with a purchase.
“We want to understand how consumers choose and utilize goods and services and the processes they go through before making a purchase. Businesses can use this information to make adjustments and promote their goods more effectively by comprehending how consumers think, feel, and make decisions. They can satisfy markets and better meet consumer’s needs.”
The topic is also the basis for her master’s thesis.
“In my thesis, I’m studying consumer’s responses and purchasing behaviors concerning carbon-related labeled products. The thesis topic relates to the effects of introducing labels on carbon footprint and utilizes detailed data from grocery stores in the USA. This will help explore market-observed price premiums for reduced carbon emissions or adopted sustainable practices.”
She’s also excited to be working with Dr. Nicole Widmar as a research assistant to gain additional insights into consumer behavior.
“I am currently working and assisting Professor Nicole Widmar on research projects involving social media listening and web scraping data, concerning reduced carbon footprint labels and related practices in livestock production systems. In one project, we monitor online conversations from multiple social media venues such as Twitter. We want to determine the volume and sentiment of online media on the previously mentioned topics. In a second project, we study consumers’ responses, purchasing behaviors, with regards to carbon-labeled products and their effects. The research will also identify common labels by geography and associated price premiums.”
Over the summer, Maria visited Fair Oaks Farms - an agritourism operation located in Fair Oaks, Indiana.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with Professor Nicole Widmar. Her research interests, subjects, work, and my cooperation with her, have been a source of inspiration. I have gained a lot working with her. Collectively, all of my professors have provided me with motivation, knowledge, and assistance whenever I needed it.”