First Advisor

Wayne Wakeland

Date of Publication

Spring 5-23-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Systems Science


Systems Science




Gardening -- Oregon -- Portland, Intrinsic motivation, Quality of life, Well-being



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 171 pages)


Nonmarket activities such as gardening and cooking are often correlated with increased well-being and happiness. Additionally, nonmarket, casual activities such as gardening and food preparation are often internally motivated, and provide observable examples of self-concordant experiences. Self-concordance, i.e., internalized motivation, has been shown to increase satisfaction and increase efficacy of goal attainment. Further, experiential hobbies such as gardening may help individuals feel more satisfied, adopt more intrinsic life aspirations, and be less materialistic.

This study explored satisfaction, materialism, and food activities by focusing on first-person, lived experiences of eight urban gardeners in Portland Oregon who grow, prepare, and eat their own food. Little is known about what specific food experiences lead to increased feelings of well-being and satisfaction. Whereas previous research focused on defining and assessing materialism based on life aspiration measures, this study explored how intrinsic life aspirations translate into concrete, lived experiences expressed through food activities. The goal of the current study was to gain a deeper understanding of how food experiences satisfied the psychological needs of urban gardeners.

Qualitative analysis of interviews and other data revealed that food experiences: 1) were motivated by intrinsic reasons, such as competency, creativity, and curiosity, and also sometimes for extrinsic reasons such as status and security, 2) were affected by enabling factors such as social relationships, and disabling factors such as time, energy, and financial limitations, and 3) resulted in increased life satisfaction, and feelings of strength, and confidence. Additionally, participants' level of general materialism often corresponded with their level of materialism regarding their food experiences.

The results indicated that individually tailored experiential long-term food related hobbies are highly valued and a source of great satisfaction for a variety of psychological needs, such as relatedness, connection, work-life balance, and abundance. These results show that food activities can be intrinsically satisfying and can mitigate the negative effects of materialism. The findings from this study build theory and provide direction for potential future research in reducing materialism by developing measures for types of satisfaction from food activities and testing correlations with materialism and life satisfaction.


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