Ask farmers why they farm | HER

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Where and how do we get information? What sources of information do we trust and why do we trust them? Answering these questions was at the heart of the issues posed during a recent “The Current” webinar series, hosted by the North Central Region Water Network and moderated by Network Director Rebecca Power.

During a recent episode of the series titled “Communicating Conservation to Landowners,” a panel of three speakers spoke about studies and practical experiences that help uncover what makes a natural resource or landowner professional. an excellent communicator.

Dara Wald is an associate professor at Texas A&M University-Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications. She conducted a study with colleagues at Iowa State University. The study indicated that although not all farmers are the same, farmers generally seek or receive information from at least three sources. They generally have no problems accessing information. Farmers in the study preferred to get information from an academic extension — and especially from someone with whom they had a personal connection.

From the study, Wald drew the conclusion that organizations or individuals hoping to connect with farmers need to connect with them using a variety of information sources, although the study did not find out which sources. are the most reliable.

Collin Weigel is a behavioral economist at the California Air Resources Board. He discussed research findings on communication techniques that successfully reach farmers. Weigel advocates choosing communication techniques based on data, not just the opinions of organizational leaders or the loudest speaker.

He and his colleagues found that discussing ways to improve soil health was more effective than focusing on the economic benefits derived from improving soil health. He also found that posts that targeted a location like a county or watershed were 20% more effective than posts that focused on an entire state.

Serge Koenig is a conservation technician with the Sauk County Department of Lands and Environment in southern Wisconsin. He has 27 years of experience working with farmers; he provided the perspective of a professional who works daily in the field with farmers. He explained how to arrive at “Yes”.

To communicate effectively with farmers, he advocates learning to ask questions and really listen to the answers.

“Become a student of every farm and farmer by making a real effort to understand and know them,” he said. “Don’t give up, but don’t be a pest… Don’t use jargon and acronyms.

“Admit you don’t know all the answers, but find the answer and report back to the farmer…Keep calm and let people vent.”

Koenig said he asks farmers, “What’s your why?” In other words, he asks why they cultivate.

He says communication is both an art and a science. But with perseverance and practice, resource professionals can help people break from routines to try new things. He frequently recommends people read the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor E. Frankl. If people don’t know where they’re going, any road can get them there, Koenig said. But with the trust developed through relationships, a planned future with measurable and meaningful goals and objectives can be developed.

Contact Koenig at [email protected] or 608-355-4837 for more information.

Ultimately, there are many ways to reach people with conservation information, but most people prefer to learn from someone they’ve come to know and trust.

Visit northcentralwater.org for more information, get more information on the webinar series and the North Central Region Water Network.

This is an original article written for Agri-View, an agricultural publication of Lee Enterprises based in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit AgriView.com for more information.

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Jason Maloney is an “elderly” farm boy from Marinette County, Wisconsin. He is a retired educator, retired soldier, and permanent resident of Wisconsin. He lives on the shore of Lake Superior with his wife, Cindy Dillenschneider, and Red, a loyal and hardy Australian Shepherd.

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