Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Posts tagged ‘farmers’

Defining your target audience

April-89

Do you think about your target audience?

In agriculture we are often guilty of thinking in terms of industry types and then lumping farmers into one group. We then provide information to “suit all” instead of thinking about how people vary and how to most effectively target communication or extension information.

“They are farmers so don’t they all have the same problem and same needs?”

In the marketing world a significant amount of energy is spent defining target markets in order to be effective with a limited resource. Common segments include

  • Geographical
  • Demographic
  • Psychographic
  • Behavioural

How can we apply this is the agricultural sector?

1. Geographical – in terms of agriculture we do this quite well. We think about the location, rainfall, soil types of the farmers we are working with and whether the practice/ innovation we are encouraging them to adopt will fit within their system.

2. Demographic

  • Consider the stage of life cycle on the farm – is the business in wind down mode, or building for the next generation, how many families are being supported by the business? Is the next generation coming home or is this the end of the line for that farming family.
  • Education level will impact on approaches to analytical thinking vs intuitive thinking which in turn impacts on decision making processes.
  • Are we targeting a particular age group? Different age groups vary in their preferred means of communication, perspective and engagement methods.
  • Gender is another important consideration, not all farmers are male and the women on farms play an important role in farm decision making. Has the female been considered and included.

3. Psychographic – These are important considerations which are often completely overlooked.

  • They include the farmers status in the community, is he respected (a champion) and how important is it to be seen “doing the right thing”?
  • Values, beliefs and attitudes play a very important role in marketing. What are some of the generic values of the farmers we are working with and how can we tap into these to attract their attention?
  • Personality type analysis has been carried out in agriculture, this has been discussed in an earlier blog. Farmer personality types
  • Lifestyle grouping – are they a commercial farmer, a lifestyle farmer or perhaps a traditional farmer?

4. Behavioural

  • Think about where farmers sit of the adoption curve – how open are they to new innovation? Are they the first in the district to jump on board with a something new or do they like to sit back and watch until the early adopters have overcome any problems.
  • How loyal are they to a particular service, commodity and approach?  The stronger the loyalty the more difficult the change.

Next time you are considering a communication or extension program spent some time thinking about your target audience and plan a strategic approach rather than  jumping in with a generic one. I’d be keen to hear about the impacts!

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What is extension?

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 11.38.13 amI have recently taken on the role of President of the Australasia Pacific Extension Network (APEN) and I am often asked what does extension mean. Extension is a word commonly used in agriculture and natural resources management but not often used elsewhere.

APEN defines extension as working with people in a community to facilitate change in an environment that has social, economic and technical complexity. This is achieved by helping people gain  knowledge and confidence so they see the need for change and provide support to ensure it is implemented effectively. APEN goes on to say that an important part of extension is capacity building.

A recent paper published by the Australian Farm Institute defines Extension as – activities by both the public and private sector to transfer knowledge to and between farmers about ways to improve farm productivity and sustainability. The knowledge may be transferred either directly to farmers, or indirectly through farm service providers.

Traditionally extension was seen as a transfer of knowledge, what I like about the APEN definition is it highlights the importance of people and capacity building. People make change and adopt new practices based on the information they receive and how well that data fits with their personal values, beliefs and attitudes. Without a good understanding of people, decision making processes and the impact of change data alone can pile up on the desk.

As the model suggests the extension process is about people and technical information. To ensure the research and development carried out on farmers behalf is adopted farmers it is best to engaged them in the process. This enables ownership and understanding to be developed throughout the research rather than data being provided at the end.

If the data has been generated in relative isolation from a farmer audience then the people working in extension need to think about how they can engage farmers with the data to help them develop that ownership. Let’s become more creative in our methods – add some marketing and basic psychology skills to our extension practices.

Tips for running great field days

EL Bill Fungicides 2Tips for great field days – thanks once again to the GRDC Extension group for their ideas. I have build on their brainstorm with some other thoughts collected from discussions over the last 12 months.

Tips for great field days …

  • Well located – think about where the field day site is to be located. Is it easily accessible? If it’s a very wet season will people still be able to access the site? What is the noise level like? Is there a busy highway or train line close to the site which will impact on peoples ability to hear speakers?
  • Run on time – start and finish on time, value the effort people have made to be there. This includes the sessions during the day – speakers don’t feel valued if they have prepared for 30 minutes are then are cut short because the  person prior has gone over time.
  • Know and “name” the outcomes to be achieved by the event. A few well formed outcomes are more achievable than lots and lots!
  • Local, relevant and topical – what are the key issues being faced in the district right now.
  • Credible topics – how can this be integrated into my farm business?
  • Recognised farmer – utilise farmers where possible to tell stories and value add to the research with their first hand experiences.
  • Evaluate – follow up, how effective was the event? Were the agreed outcomes achieved? What worked well and what could be done differently next time?
  • Good agronomy – make sure the trials are well presented and in line with district practice.
  • Interaction time – ensure there is time for participants to views trials, ask questions and discuss what they might have learnt amongst themselves.
  • Good food – this is vitally important! Poor food will be all that is reported on so get it right!
  • Focus – not heaps of trials or topics.
  • Crop trial inspection time – focus on a few trials is more effectively than overwhelming people with lots to view. Think about how much you can take in during one session.
  •  Add something that is a “bit left of field” or “blue sky” to create some interest
  • BBQ  & beer to finish off the day and allow some very important networking time.

What other ideas do readers have about what makes a great field day?

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20 ideas to create Field Days with Wow

What gives a field day the Wow factor?

This blog is a compilation of the emails and comments I have collected from my last post. I hope you all enjoy reading it and gain some useful insights into what gives a field day the Wow factor.

  1. Seeing or hearing something new – this could be machinery or a trial
  2. When planning the event the organizers have thought carefully about the objectives & key messages
  3. When the focus is on a few topics.
  4. Hearing the real life story from someone who has done it. Give the research or theory and then a practical case study of whats worked in the field and what could be done differently.
  5. Time for networking, name tags, time to introduce people and find about the other people at the event.
  6. Interactive sessions – get rid of the power points
  7. Plenty of time for questions and discussion
  8. Evaluation – having the opportunity to let the organisers know what worked well and what could be done differently. These need to be written so people can be honest with their answers.
  9. BBQ, great food
  10. Have a microphone!! A PA system with back up batteries, make sure people can hear whats going on.
  11. Be aware of the target audience and aim the information at the right level.
  12. Relevant up-to-date information
  13. Including some “blue-sky” research thats related to the region.
  14. Hands on activities in the trial – not all stand and listen
  15. Chairs to sit on around the site
  16. Independent advice from industry experts
  17. Field days that consider the needs of women – timing, location toilet and child friendly
  18. Opportunity for small groups discussions
  19. Be aware of the impact of the location and outside noise – good locations are accessible even when it’s wet, they are quiet (not with a train line or highway alongside the site)
  20. Being aware of why farmers attend these events – knowledge, social occasion, exchanging ideas, seeing something different and providing for all of these creates the wow.
The most commonly highlighted mistake was cramming too much into the field day – information overload, too many sessions, too many power points …

Thanks to everyone for your fantastic contribution to this Blog topic.

It doesn’t end here! Please continue to send through your thoughts and comments about great field days so I can continue my blog.

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