How farmers learn: improving sustainable agriculture education

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $205,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Nancy Franz
Virginia Tech

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, participatory research, workshop

    Proposal abstract:

    The way farmers learn may change as their environment changes. This three year study examines how farmers currently prefer to learn and what this means for agriculture education, especially Extension education. Few studies have determined what types of educational delivery methods are preferred by farmers as learners (Eckert & Bell, 2005). This participatory action research project driven by a farmer and Extension agent steering committee will explore the preferred learning methods of young farmers, female farmers, alternative agriculture producers, and traditional dairy farmers. Data on learning methods collected directly from farmers will be compared with preferred teaching methods of Cooperative Extension agents and specialists. Since most educators tend to teach the way they prefer to learn (Davis, 2006), this research could shape agent and specialist perspectives on appropriate educational delivery methods for working with farmers. The project will begin by examining farmers and Extension agents and specialists in Virginia and expand to studying farmers and Extension agents and specialists elsewhere in the Southern Region and culminate with dissemination of the findings through professional development workshops for Extension agents and specialists. An on-line Breeze presentation, journal article submissions, a research logic model, a research brief, and a research report will be disseminated to farmers and Extension staff.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objectives for Year One

    1. Farmers, Extension agents and specialists, and project staff as a group design and carry out an assessment of how Virginia farmers prefer to learn.
    2. Farmers, Extension agents and specialists, and project staff assess Extension agent perceptions of how farmers in Virginia prefer to learn and determine how these perceptions are similar or different from farmer’s stated learning preferences.
    3. Farmers, Extension agents and specialists, and project staff recommend how Extension educators should change or reinforce teaching methods and educational experiences to align with farmers learning preferences for more successful educational programming.
    4. Farmers, Extension agents and specialists, and project staff recommend how this research model in Virginia could be expanded to other states in the Southern Region for year two and what training might be needed for Extension educators across the region in year three.

    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.