Farmer research education program
This project provides training to facilitate farmer research. The course is directed towards extension educators and other agricultural professionals directly working with farmers in Maine, New Hampshire and neighboring states. Project activities include workshops, on-farm research projects, farm tours, and the development of communication tools. A series of two-day workshops are being conducted covering topics such as how to work with farmers to translate production and conservation problems into researchable questions, how to design experiments that are scientifically sound yet manageable, and how to analyze on-farm experimental data.
All participants in the course are working with farmers in their region to develop and implement farmer research projects. These projects will serve as hands-on learning experiences for project participants. Workshops are being held in conjunction with each phase of carrying out these projects in order to discuss and solve real-world problems as they arise. Workshops are in modular form so that professionals not able to participate in the entire series will receive training in one or more critical components of farmer research. We use a range of experiential learning techniques designed to teach integrative skills needed when dealing with the complex issues in farmer research. Participants work in diverse teams which include experienced farmers as well as other qualified on-farm research practitioners.
A newsletter and website have been developed to disseminate results from farmer research projects, promote the innovative research approach and issues throughout the region, and remain in contact with farmer research programs. The site is located at:
Twenty agricultural support professionals, in partnership with at least 35 farmers, will complete an on-farm research project and will incorporate the results into their educational programming. Seventeen of the 35 participating farmers will change a production practice based on their on-farm research.
The objectives of this project are to: 1) train extension educators in the the New England states how to determine farmer driven research ideas, 2) how to support farmers as they implement these ideas, 3) how to work with farmers to over come obstacles during project implementation, 4) how to work with farmers in analyzing and disseminating research data.
We have funded 16 projects that have been completed during 2005. These projects were organized by extension educators in Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Additionally, another 10 projects will be conducted in New Hampshire and Maine during 2006. These projects provide a hands-on opportunity to use the principles discussed during the two workshops held in the fall of 2003 and 2004.
Forty-five educators have subscribed to a listserve that gives regular updates on the project and provides a forum for discussion. Attendees at either of the workshops were invited to submit a proposal last year to conduct a farmer-led research project.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Currently an evaluation tool is being created to capture the impacts from the 16 projects funded and completed as of 2005. The evaluation tool is an electronic survey, as all the participants are extension educators. In addition to this tool, we will be conducting phone surveys with the extension educators to assess information not included in the survey.
The evaluation tool seeks to measure the impacts of this grant on the extension educators, the results of the farmer-drvien research projects conducted by the farmers, and any behavior changes that farmers may have implemented asa result of the research projects.
This data will be included in the final report for all projects and participants.