Combining Holistic Resource Management and Strategic Planning to Improve Farm Resource Planning

Final Report for ENC97-021

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1997: $9,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2000
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $14,412.00
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Craig Dobbins
Dept of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University
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Project Information

Abstract:

The purpose of this project is to enhance the knowledge of the Purdue Extension staff in the areas of holistic management and strategic management. These individuals would then form multi-disciplinary teams of extension specialists and county educators that can help farmers develop more integrated family and business plans.

Methods/Approach

In-service professional development opportunities were provided to educators and specialists on the topics of holist management and strategic management in order increase their knowledge of these tools and to foster the development of teams capable of leading farmer workshops. Leadership for these sessions initially drew upon leaders in these fields located at other institutions. Towards the end of the project, in-house staff led staff development sessions and workshops for farmers. Materials from various sources were synthesized into two notebooks – an instructor manual and a workshop participant manual under the program title of “Positioning the Farm Business.”

Results

One team of county educators and specialists was formed. This team has conducted three farmer workshops. Additional farmer workshops are scheduled for February and March 2001. The county educators in this team also conducted a staff development session for their peers on the use of strategic management materials.

Impacts and Potential Contributions

The outcomes of this effort include the following:

Knowledge of the Extension and NRCS staff about the holistic approach to management and the role that it can play in the management of farm businesses was increased. Members of the staff are better equipped to address management questions from a systems perspective.

The capacity of Purdue Extension to provide management education has been enhanced. A team of specialists and educators has formed and are providing workshops for farmers. In addition the ability to provide staff development opportunities in management has been enhanced. Specialists usually lead the staff development opportunities. However, the team of county educators developed enough confidence their knowledge of strategic management to lead a staff development session for their peers.

Knowledge that farmers have about the forces shaping production agriculture and how they can respond to these changes has been increased.

Project Objectives:

1. Introduce the concepts and techniques of holistic resource management and strategic planning to extension educators.

2. Provide professional development sessions where extension educators will learn to apply holistic and strategic management tools to planning the farm business.

3. Improve farmers’ understanding and skills in utilizing holistic resource management and strategic management methods for the development and implementation of farm management strategies.

Cooperators

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  • Craig Dobbins

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

To provide extension specialists an opportunity to learn more about holistic management and the role that it can play in the management of production resources, Dr. Don Nelson from Washington State University was brought to Purdue. Dr. Nelson serves as the Director of the Creating a Sustainable Future program and has several years experience in using holist management. During this visit, Dr. Nelson met with faculty in small discussion groups and with members of the Sustainable Agriculture Team. He also prepared a videotape for use during an in-service training session on whole farm planning.

In November 1997, an in-service training session on whole farm planning and sustainable agricultural systems was conducted for county educators. Objectives for this session included (1) defining whole farm planning, explaining its importance, and applying it to Indiana agriculture and (2) illustrating through a case study the importance of integrating economic, ecological, and social systems together.

In April 1998, an in-service training program addressing the use of strategic management was conducted. In addition to providing an increased understanding of strategic management, this session had the objective of encouraging the formation of instructional teams to lead farmer workshops. For the April session, material on the forces shaping agriculture, the use of vision and mission statements in developing goals, methods for implementing strategic plans, and procedures for assessing and repositioning the business were developed and presented.

To provide extension specialists, county educators, NRCS personnel, and farmers an opportunity to learn more about holistic management, a multi-day workshop was held on holistic management was held in August 1999. This workshop was led by Ed Martsolf and provided an introduction to holistic management for four county educators, two extension specialists, three NRCS personnel, and five farm couples. The workshop emphasized the principles associated with development of the holistic goal and the testing of alternatives.

In November 1999, an in-service training session on applying strategic planning to the farm business was conducted for county educators by the group of county educators that had been working with specialists. In addition to providing an increased understanding of strategic planning, this session had the objective of encouraging the formation of instructional teams to lead farmer workshops. The materials developed for this session were packaged under the title of Positioning the Farm Business. Topics contained in the educational program include the forces shaping production agriculture, the use of vision and mission statements in developing goals, and methods for implementing and monitoring the strategic plan. This session included an additional 20 county educators.

In August 2000, a staff member participated in the instructor training for the entrepreneurial course curriculum entitled “Tilling the Soil of Opportunity.” This curriculum was developed by the US West Foundation, University of Nebraska, University of Colorado at Denver, and the Nxt Level Training Network. This course emphasizes business planning and provides another tool for teaching business management to owners of small businesses.

Outreach and Publications

Mike Boehlje, Alan Miller, and Craig Dobbins. 1999, “Positioning the Farm Business – Participant Manual”

Mike Boehlje, Alan Miller, and Craig Dobbins. 1999, “Positioning the Farm Business – Instructor Manual”

Outcomes and impacts:

The outcomes of this project included:

Knowledge of the Extension and NRCS staff about the holistic approach to management and the role that it can play in the management of farm businesses was increased. Members of the staff are better equipped to address management questions from a systems perspective.

The capacity of Purdue Extension to provide management education has been enhanced. A team of specialists and educators has formed and are providing workshops for farmers. In addition the ability to provide staff development opportunities in management has been enhanced. Specialists usually lead the staff development opportunities. However, the team of county educators developed enough confidence their knowledge of strategic management to lead a staff development session for their peers.

Farmers have an increased knowledge about the forces shaping production agriculture and how they can respond to these forces.

The workshops that that have been conducted for farmers have been well received. However, recruiting an audience for these sessions is an ongoing challenge. While many positive comments are received after the program has concluded, finding better ways to explain the benefits of the program are needed.

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

Evaluation

A formal evaluation of the staff development sessions was not conducted, but those attending indicated that the sessions had been helpful.

The overall evaluation of the workshops conducted for farmers was 8.3 on a 10-point scale with 10 being the highest. Several comments were received. Examples of these comments included "I would like to spend more time on this part." "Gives you several things to think about."

In addition, there were several suggestions for improvement and the educational materials continue to be refined based on these comments. The addition of a case problem is one important change that was made to the strategic management material.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.