Keeping Up-To-Date with Constant Changes

Joel DeJong, crop specialist

Crop clinics in counties have gotten smaller over the years. Our customer demands continue to increase in levels of expertise shared at meetings. Time is short for all people, so insuring that a lot of quality information is available to crop producers in a limited time period is more critical now than ever before. But, the world of agronomy constantly changes, and producers need to find ways to keep current.

The Crop Advantage series is a state-wide series for programs designed to bring the highest level of information and put them into the hands of farmers. The individual conference held at Sheldon was designed with two keynote speakers in the morning, and three concurrent workshops over three afternoon time periods. This format gave a general session for keynote speakers, in which almost everyone is interested in hearing, and allows producers to be time-efficient in the afternoon by selecting workshops that are of interest to them, leaving no time periods where they have to endure topics that are not relevant to them. The speakers are mostly state Extension Specialists, leaders in their fields, so the quality of the event also helps encourage attendance. In addition, credits were give for Certified Crop Advisors and a workshop to certify these farmers for private pesticide applicator continuing education was done at the conclusion of the day, as to be more efficient for the audience. A similar conference has been done at Sheldon for about 10 years and attendance has been around 100 to 130 for most of the years. However, some of these added features were expected to improve attendance. Participants were also charged a reasonable fee for participation.

In 2004, the Sheldon Crop Advantage Conference attracted 262 paid participants, generating almost $10,000 in cost recovery dollars. Attendance the previous year was 136. A survey was conducted of participants asking several questions. The first part of the survey given to attendees that day asked how they rated the conference. One hundred seventy-six surveys were returned. Of these surveys, 174 agreed that this information was useful for their business/farm operation (2 were undecided). Ninety-two percent agreed that this conference met their needs and was worth the registration fee - only one person disagreed with that statement. The overall rating was 64 percent excellent, 34 percent good, two percent fair, and zero percent poor. Obviously, participants felt they benefited from this conference. We also asked respondents to list what they learned and how it will benefit them in the future. There were 88 individual responses to this question listing specifically what they learned.
As part of the survey we asked who had attended the previous year with sixty-nine indicating they had. So, we asked what kinds of changes they made in their operation as a result of the conference in 2003. Forty-three made farm bill decisions, 46 improved bean leaf beetle management, eight changed the drainage of their land, 32 altered P and K management, 25 tested for soybean cyst nematodes, 24 used different nozzle tips on their sprayer, 47 made corn insect decisions differently, and 23 developed a marketing strategy for their crop. When asked how many acres did these decisions impact, the total number of acres noted by these 69 previous conference participants was 51,230 acres.
Obviously, crop producers in northwest Iowa need to be kept up-to-date on management issues. This conference can and does give them good research-based information for better decision-making. This format is time-efficient for them, and creates an opportunity to learn. In the future, we will be again offering this conference, and because space is becoming limited at this site, a second site will be added for the more southern part of my area in 2005.


Page last updated: July 8, 2006
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