Group Title: Improving the impact of extension programs on farmers
Title: Improving the impact of extension programs on farmers : Lessons from the FSP/E program
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 Material Information
Title: Improving the impact of extension programs on farmers : Lessons from the FSP/E program
Series Title: Improving the impact of extension programs on farmers
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Israel, Glenn D.
Publisher: Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00081550
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 123292077

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. A F.A C TS.......... A S

Improving the Impact of Extension Programs on Farmers:
Lessons From the FSR/E Program

Glenn D. Israel*

The Farming Systems Research/Extension Program
(FSR/E) was initiated to seek solutions to the
long-standing production and management prob-
lems of limited-resource farms in Columbia and
Suwannee counties in Florida. Production problems
have centered around inadequate winter forages
for livestock, while management problems have
been rooted in poor record-keeping practices. The
FSR/E program was designed with three major
goals in mind: to assess the performance of selected
forage crops and practices for limited-resource
farmers; to facilitate the adoption of both crops
and practices; and to assess the impact of the
crops and practices on farm income and family
economic well-being. Impacts of the program and
implications for other extension programs are
reported below.1

Farm incomes in Columbia and Suwannee counties
tend to be small, and more than 40 percent of farm
operators are essentially full-time workers off the
farm (U. S. Census of Agriculture, 1982). Cattle
and forage production are important components
in the farming systems in the area. More than 73
percent of limited-resource farmers reported
producing cattle in 1984,and 85 percent reported
having pasture land. Low prices for commodities,
and declining land values created hard times for
these farmers during the period 1984 through
1987, with prices for several important commodities
falling dramatically in 1983. Between 1984 and
1Data for the study were collected through personal interviews
with a random sample of 124 limited-resource farmers in Columbia
and Suwannee counties during 1984, and 90 such farmers in 1987.
The independent, representative samples are used to assess the
extent of change among limited-resource farmers. Additional
information about verification trials on perennial peanut was
obtained from 30 farmers in 1987. A pre-test was administered at
the first session to 48 participants, and a post-test was given to 39
participants during the last session to obtain data on the Record
Keeping School in 1986.

*Assistant Professor, Agricultural and Extension Education,
IFAS, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.

1987, the number of limited-resource farms in the
two counties is estimated to have decreased from
915 to 817 -- an 11 percent drop.

Areas of Program Emphasis
and Results
Winter Forage
Perennial peanut is a key crop in solving winter
forage problems. The objectives in introducing
perennial peanut were to provide improved hay, to
reduce forage production costs, and to provide
increased income from sales of hay and/or
rhizomes. To facilitate the adoption of perennial
peanut, trial plots were established among
cooperating farmers and at extension offices.
Between 1982 and 1986, 71 trial plots were estab-
lished by 52 farmers across the two counties.
Articles on the advantages of perennial peanut
also were published in local newspapers and in the
newsletter "Suwannee Valley Farming." The
semi-monthly newsletter has a circulation of
approximately 900, with 321 individuals on the
mailing list, and 15 agribusiness firms serving as
distribution outlets. By 1987, plantings of perennial
peanut had expanded to an estimated 400 acres in
the two counties. Of the 30 farmers who were
interviewed about perennial peanut, 20 of them
had established or expanded their acreage during
1985 or 1986. A total of 53 acres were planted
during that interval, averaging about 2 acres per
farm. Reactions by the cooperating farmers appear
to be mixed, with some reporting problems, while
others said that they "love it." The most frequently
cited reason for problems with perennial peanut
was dry weather, which hindered growth of the
crop. Evidence about the effect of perennial peanut
on meeting forage production needs is inconclusive.
Awareness of perennial peanut among limited-
resource farmers increased slightly from 38
percent of the sample of farmers in 1984 to 42
percent in 1987. When asked where they had heard
about perennial peanut, farmers named extension
personnel as the leading source (39 percent) of
information. Another 25 percent of farmers said

they found out about the forage crop indirectly
from extension through cooperating farmers, while
17 percent said other farmers told them, 11 percent
learned of perennial peanut through the paper
(these may have been extension articles), 3 percent
heard about the crop at a store, and 6 percent cited
other sources. Clearly, of those farmers who have
heard of perennial peanut, extension has played a
major role as the source of that knowledge.

Farm Management

The development of a Farmers' Record Keeping
School is the key element in attacking management
deficiencies. The objective of the school was to help
small farm operators better manage their farms by
providing information and assistance on record-
keeping, financial statements, and financial

To advertise the record-keeping school, 3,500
copies of the brochure entitled "Farming is YOUR
Business" were distributed. Radio and newspapers
also were used for advertising. To encourage
participation, the school was scheduled for even-
ings, when farmers would be less busy. A total of
52 individuals from 32 farm families participated
in the eight weekly sessions. Based on pre- and
post-test survey results, Summerhill et al. (1986)
concluded that the school "was successful in
creating a more positive attitude towards record
keeping, in increasing participants' knowledge of
record-keeping principles and techniques, and in
enhancing aspirations to make better use of
records in the farm business." The percentage of
respondents answering items correctly increased
on questions of general knowledge, but over half of
the respondents still gave incorrect answers to a

Table 1: Comparison of trial collaborators with farmers who have and have not heard of peren-
nial peanut. (Figures given in percentages).

Percent Percent Percent
Perennial Heard Of Not Heard Of
Peanut Perennial Perennial
Characteristic Collaborator Peanut Peanut

Farm size (with less than 16.7 34.3 25.0
50 acres)
Pasture 82.8 88.6 93.8
Grow Rye 65.5 68.6 48.9
Grow Soybeans 3.3 2.9 2.1
Grow Corn 20.0 25.7 28.3
Raise Beef 73.3 88.6 75.0
Off-Farm Work 63.3 50.0 55.3
Gross Farm Income under 33.3 34.4 62.2*+
Keep Written Records 75.9 68.6 35.4*+
Calculate Cashflow 27.6 31.4 4.2*+
Age over 45 years 56.7 68.6 78.7*
Member of Local Organization 40.0 25.7 17.8*
Member of Agricultural 60.7 44.1 34.0*
Listen to Radio/TV for 59.3 74.3 35.4*+
Ag Information
Receive Extension 90.0 65.7* 31.3*+
Had Contact with 80.0 62.9 20.8*+
Extension Personnel

Sample size 30 35 48

* Significantly different from Trial Collaborator group (p<.05).
+ Significantly different from Heard of Perennial Peanut group (p<.05).

majority of the questions on technical knowledge
on the post-test. However, 94 percent of respon-
dents said that they plan to make changes in their
record-keeping system as a result of attending the

Although the Record Keeping School was widely
advertised, only 31 percent (28 farmers) in the two
counties reported to have heard about the school,
and none of these attended it. A number of reasons
were given for not attending the school, including
time conflicts (36 percent), "no interest" (32
percent), and "already knows the information" (14

Effects on Limited Resource Farmers

One outcome envisioned by the FSR/E program is
a reduction in purchased inputs and an increase in
self-produced forage for farms with livestock. The
data are inconclusive on the contribution of
perennial peanut in reducing purchased inputs.
Another outcome intended by the FSR/E program
is an increase in the economic well-being of
limited-resource farmers. There is no evidence to
support the view that gross farm income signifi-
cantly increased from 1984 to 1987. Although gross
farm sales apparently have not changed among
limited-resource farmers, it is reasonable to
conclude that FSR/E efforts may have contributed
to the continued solvency of some farms.

Improving Extension Programs

Although a number of limited-resource farmers
have worked intensively with extension profession-
als on some aspect of their farm operation, the
impacts were limited in scope. The lack of aware-
ness and adoption of new technologies by a major-
ity of limited-resource farmers suggests that the
program failed to extend the technology to the
target audience as a whole. Less than half of
limited-resource farmers reported hearing about
perennial peanut and the Record Keeping School.
Clearly, improvements in the FSR/E program are
needed in order to spread the beneficial impacts of
new crops and practices among a wider segment of
the clientele.

The assumption by FSR/E program personnel that
farmers who conduct verification trials will com-
municate information about the use and adoption
of new technologies was not supported. One reason
this may be the case is that farmers often view
other farmers as their competitors, and they do not
want to lose a competitive edge; or they do not feel

knowledgeable about the technology and, thus, are
not willing to share information (Coughenour and
Nazhat, 1985). This points to the importance of
extension agents making contact with farmers
directly or through intermediaries (e.g., seed
salesmen) to disseminate information about new
crops and practices.

The process of extending information to farmers
can be aided by using audience profiles to differen-
tiate farmers who are hard to reach from those
who are not. Awareness of perennial peanut serves
to illustrate this point. The size of the farm in
acres, the commodity mixture, and whether or not
the owner holds a part-time or full-time job off the
farm are not significantly different for farmers who
have heard of perennial peanut and those who
have not (see Table 1). In contrast, a much larger
proportion of farmers who have not heard of
perennial peanut have gross farm incomes under
$5,000 than do both trial collaborators and farmers
who have heard of the legume.

Similarly, two indicators of management skills --
keeping written records and use of cashflow
statements -- are also employed by a smaller
percentage of farmers who have not heard of the
crop. This group tends to be older and less likely
than trial collaborators to join local social organiza-
tions or agricultural organizations. This is not
necessarily different from non-demonstrators who
have heard of perennial peanut. Finally, farmers
who have not heard of perennial peanut are less
likely than trial collaborators or farmers who are
aware of the legume to use radio or TV as a source
of agricultural information and to have contact
with the extension service.

The differences between farmers who have not
heard of perennial peanut and those who have
heard of it suggest that the former group is a
unique target audience. This audience requires
different methods or strategies in order to create
the desired technology transfer. The data indicate
that this group has low levels of productivity based
on gross farm income and low use of management
tools. These farmers rarely seek information or use
extension programs and services. This information
can be used to identify farmers who need to be
directly contacted, perhaps through home visits or
by telephone. Since these individuals are not
information seekers, activities to reduce their
"cost" -- in time and effort -- of getting and applying
information will enhance the probability of an
extension program's success.


Watts, Kathleen C. Ruppert and Rick Goff. 1986.
"Evaluation: Farmers' Record KeeDing School."

Coughenour, Milton C. and S. M. Nazhat. 1985. Program Evaluation and Organizational Develop-
Recent Change in Villages and Rainfed Agriculture ment, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences,
in North Central Kordofan: Communication University of Florida.
Process and Constraints. INTSORMIL Report No.
4. Department of Sociology, University of Kentucky. U. S. Bureau of the Census. 1982 Census of Agricul-
ture Florida, State and County Data. Volume 1,
Summerhill, William R., Darcy Meeker, Debbie Part 9.

This publication was produced at a cost of $132.05, or 18.0 cents per copy, to provide information on long-stand-
ing production and management problems of limited-resource farmers. 3-750-89

Zachariah, director, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, publishes this information to further the purpose of the
May 8 and June 30, 1914 Acts of Congress; and is authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to
individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap or national origin. Single copies of extension
publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county extension offices Information on bulk
rates or copies for out-of-state purchasers is available from C.M. Hinton, Publications Distribution Center. IFAS Building 664. University of
Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611. Before publicizing this publication, editors should contact this address to determine availability. l

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