Needs of Agriculture Educators for Training, Resources, and Professional Development in Business Management and Marketing
Schlough, Charles A.; Streeter, Deborah H.
In this study, Cornell Cooperative Extension agriculture educators were surveyed to ascertain: 1) their assessment of the needs and interests of constituent farmers for learning business planning and marketing principles, 2) the resources they currently use to meet these needs, 3) the partners they have used in training, and 4) their needs for additional resources and professional development to deliver support on these topics. Similar studies and reports created at Cornell University since 1978 informed our research. Earlier studies documented the ongoing needs of farmers and educators for resources in business management over the past two decades. Over that same time period, alternative and diversified enterprises have become more common farming activities, resulting in a heightened interest by farmers in value-added opportunities, suitable market channels, and strategies to access them. Because of this trend it was judged to be an appropriate time to re-inventory the needs and interests of extension educators. Participants in the survey, which was administered by mail to 118 individuals, included Cornell Cooperative Extension personnel who work with agricultural constituents and people hired as Agriculture Economic Development Specialists. Seventy-five useable surveys were completed, representing a response rate of 64%. Results show that extension educators still feel that in the areas of business planning and marketing too few resources are available and there persists an underdeveloped capacity to adequately serve the requests of constituents. Of course, not all constituent demands can or should be met. Choices about how to best support current needs must be based on the CCE mission as an educational system, which, according to its mission statement, enables “people to improve their lives and communities through partnerships that put experience and research knowledge to work.” Seen through this lens, the results of the study indicate that CCE should promote the addition of training opportunities and creation of education materials which are aimed at agriculture extension educators (and through them, farmers) and are focused on effective business planning practices that will lead to improved profits and career satisfaction.
Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University