Progress report for WPDP22-017
Negotiation is the achievement of an agreement among parties via interpersonal communication. Improved interpersonal communication and negotiation skills can plausibly help sustain economic viability of farms and increase the quality of life by reducing the likelihood of conflict.
Extension faculty at the University of Idaho, Montana State University, University of Wyoming and collaborating partners in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are developing a comprehensive program to improve farmers and ranchers’ negotiation skills throughout the US West.
The program expands on existing work by the principal investigators, several collaborators, and other Extension colleagues. Beginning in 2020, the PIs discussed needs, planned, and created a series of seven “Negotiation in Agriculture” guides and four course modules that include short video presentations, quizzes, and opportunities to interact with others online. Several more are in the final stages of development. (See Western Extension Committee, 2021 or negotiation.farmmanagement.org for more detail.)
However, through the process of creating these pedagogical tools, the PIs became aware that the need for negotiation resources in western agricultural communities was larger than anticipated. The activities in this project will expand on existing efforts by both enhancing online content and offering an in-person train-the-trainer event.
The project includes development of comprehensive educational material, covering both online and print curricula, that focuses on two main aspects of negotiation: 1) the basics of interpersonal communication and dialogue; and 2) negotiations within an agricultural context. These curricula will be developed for ongoing online-based programming. There will also be an in-depth, in-person training of agricultural professionals (e.g., county Extension Educators/Agents) throughout the US West, who will subsequently impart their training to local agricultural stakeholders. A website will be developed to host the curricula materials as well as an online forum where agricultural Extension county professionals can interact, share experiences, and practice negotiation techniques.
Activities in this project include provision of educational resources and training on negotiation skills and techniques to agricultural professionals such as western state Extension personnel, western US state department of agriculture staff, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) staff, or others who will, in turn, implement and conduct negotiation-focused educational activities for western farmers, ranchers, and other interested members of the western agricultural community.
Aligned subject matters – business risk management, planning, stakeholder engagement, community development, communications
- Increase the capacity of agricultural professionals throughout the western United States in interpersonal communication and negotiation skills and techniques in a manner that facilitates the dissemination of such knowledge and skills to members of the western agricultural community with diverse backgrounds, skills, and beliefs, especially historically marginalized groups, beginning, limited resource, and veteran farmers and ranchers.
- Increase the use of interpersonal communication and negotiation skills and techniques among members of the western US agricultural community by building and enhancing their capacity to facilitate and engage in fruitful negotiations, which will likely lead to better business and personal relationships, and improved quality-of-life. Emphasis will be placed specifically on using negotiation best practices to reduce general business risk and improve environmental sustainability of western farm and ranch operations.
- Improve the awareness among agricultural business and policy stakeholders and members of the public on the importance of negotiation-related knowledge and skills that improve communication and relationships for enhanced quality of life throughout the western agricultural community.
The program will use existing material and develop additional negotiation-related curricula for delivery in both online and in-person formats over the course of three years, starting July 1, 2022, and ending June 30, 2025. The table below shows the main activities and when they will occur by quarter; January – March is Q1, April – June is Q2, July – September is Q3, and October – December is Q4.
The main activities for the first year include further development of curriculum materials, a program-specific website, and an online computer-based experiential learning tool. The curriculum materials will be developed based on continued consultations with the collaborators who are advising on curriculum. For example, during a Zoom call in development of this proposal, several Extension-based collaborators mentioned that they would prefer the curriculum to include both basic communications-related educational material and topic specific material relevant for agriculture. Such consultations will continue throughout the first year of the project as curriculum products are developed to verify whether the content is meeting the expected needs of the agricultural professionals who will be trained. Also in parallel throughout the first year will be planning for the in-person training in Q3 of 2023. This date range was chosen based on preferences of collaborators expressed in the above-mentioned Zoom call. Web-based programming, including webinars and dissemination of associated educational materials such as mini-courses, will be organized for Q4 and Q1 of each year of the project.
The curriculum materials will be intermittently expanded and updated based on feedback provided by the agricultural professionals who participate in the web-based programs and/or the in-person training. Support for the trained agricultural professionals, in the form of provision of copies of curriculum, referrals to specific experts, and general consultation on program implementation and evaluation, will be provided for the full period after the in-person training. The in-person capstone training will take place in Q4 of 2023. Overall program evaluation will occur at project conclusion in Q2 of 2025.
The project team met in the fall 2022 to discuss project progress and plans for anticipated educational approaches. In the project proposal, the team had proposed to implement online webinars (6 in total). However, a couple of the project team members had experiences on another project that were discussed amongst the team as a possible alternative to online webinars. Specifically, team members proposed the potential to implement recorded interviews of experts on specific negotiation topics that could be utilized in curriculum development and/or as “clips” on the program website. The project team did not reach a conclusion about what would be best during that meeting and decided to continue individual investigations to discuss at the next team meeting in spring 2023.
The project team discussed efforts to update existing curriculum. Specifically, the Principal Investigator discussed two efforts under curriculum development. First, Sarah Bush, Ph.D., an Agricultural Education and Communications expert at the University of Florida, was consulted for identifying topics that are more background basics for communication and not specific to negotiation in agriculture. Second, various program curriculum focused on Farm Succession within Extension at the University of Idaho and Kansas State University were reviewed based on the potential for Extension Educators/Agents who teach those programs to utilize the knowledge and skills obtained in a training focused on negotiations in agriculture.
The main program website remains that as the Negotiation in Agriculture website hosted under the Western Extension Committee (https://negotiation.farmmanagement.org/). The project team discussed the potential for continuing to host the program curriculum and material on that website but expanding and improving on the existing material. The decision regarding hosting the program material on this website or another independent site was left for further consideration and deciding in the team meeting in spring 2023.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Objective 1: Increase the capacity of agricultural professionals throughout the western United States in interpersonal communication and negotiation skills and techniques in a manner that facilitates the dissemination of such knowledge and skills to members of the western agricultural community with diverse backgrounds, skills, and beliefs, especially historically marginalized groups, beginning, limited resource, and veteran farmers and ranchers.
Activities conducted and ongoing efforts to achieve objective 1 as of January 31, 2023:
- Ongoing curriculum review and development, to be completed in 2023 and updated in 2024 and 2025
- Discussion of this project with Extension Educator/Agent colleagues has been ongoing
- Planning of in-person training scheduled for fall 2023 was discussed in the team meeting in fall 2022, and specifics will be finalized in the planned team meeting in spring 2023
- A Qualtrics survey to be sent to Extension Educators/Agents throughout the US West to determine their preferences regarding timing and location was initiated and will be set in spring 2023.
Objective 2: Increase the use of interpersonal communication and negotiation skills and techniques among members of the western US agricultural community by building and enhancing their capacity to facilitate and engage in fruitful negotiations, which will likely lead to better business and personal relationships, and improved quality-of-life. Emphasis will be placed specifically on using negotiation best practices to reduce general business risk and improve environmental sustainability of western farm and ranch operations.
Activities conducted and ongoing efforts to achieve objective 2 as of January 31, 2023:
- Consultations with expert on interpersonal education regarding specific topics was completed in fall 2022
- Several professionals in the Western agricultural community were approached in fall 2022 as potential contributors to curricula and/or webinar/recorded presentations, including a chief negotiator for the Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative (https://www.potatopro.com/companies/southern-idaho-potato-cooperative-sipco). Discussions are ongoing with other prospective contributors.
Objective 3: Improve the awareness among agricultural business and policy stakeholders and members of the public on the importance of negotiation-related knowledge and skills that improve communication and relationships for enhanced quality of life throughout the western agricultural community.
Activities conducted and ongoing efforts to achieve objective 3 as of January 31, 2023:
- Discussions have taken place between the Principal Investigator and editors of several popular press outlets, including Idaho Ag Proud and Potato Grower, regarding the potential to include articles pertaining to negotiations in agriculture and aligned topics. Several opportunities for article submission are available in each year of the program. At least one article will be contributed to one of these outlets during 2023.
Educational & Outreach Activities
There are no learning outcomes to report as of January 31, 2023. The project team will report learning outcomes among Extension educators/agents after the in-person training for Educators/Agents scheduled for fall 2023 and learning outcomes among members of the communities of the trained Educators/Agents who implement trainings on negotiation-related topics in 2024 and 2025.
There are signs of expanded collaborations among the project team members, researchers, Extension colleagues, and members of the Western agricultural community as part of the efforts undertaken under this project.