AMES, Iowa – There is no shortage of avenues for farmers to receive information geared to help them make agronomic, conservation, financial and other agriculture-related decisions. The Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll asked farmers about how they prefer to learn about different types of agricultural information.
“There are a lot of ways that farmers can access information these days, with new pathways such as social media vying with traditional sources such as field days, so we wanted to know what farmers’ preferences are in this changing communication landscape,” said J. Gordon Arbuckle, associate professor of sociology at Iowa State University. “We were particularly interested in learning about farmer perspectives on ‘new media’ sources such as social media, online videos, downloadable publications and web-based ‘decision tools.’”
The survey provided farmers with a list agricultural topics and a list of ways they can access information and asked them to select the ones that they most prefer for each topic. Live, in-person ways of getting information were most popular for all topic areas. One-on-one consultations were the top way farmers wanted to receive information on financial management (55 percent), seed selection (53 percent), crop disease management (49 percent), nutrient management (49 percent) and pest management (47 percent).
Workshops, trainings and meetings were the most trusted source for information on marketing (46 percent), reducing nutrient loss into waterways (46 percent), soil and water conservation (45 percent) and livestock management (44 percent). Field days were the top choice for information on tillage methods (46 percent), but this method was popular in many of the other categories as well.
Among the internet-based pathways, downloaded publications were generally the most preferred means of gathering information. A minimum of 14 percent of respondents selected this method as their preferred way of getting information about each of the topics in question.
Other mediums like online videos, web-based or downloadable “decision tools,” and apps for a smartphone or tablet received limited endorsement as preferred information gathering tools. Social medial platforms such as Twitter and Facebook were cited by less than 2.5 percent of farmers in each category with the exception of dealing with severe weather (4 percent).
“The tried-and-true ways of communicating with farmers through meetings, field days, and consultations are still the most preferred pathways, by far,” said Arbuckle. “That said, substantial numbers of farmers did select at least one internet-based source, indicating ‘new media’ forms of communication are gaining some acceptance.”
The Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll has been in existence since 1982, surveying Iowa farmers on issues of importance to agricultural stakeholders. It is the longest-running survey of its kind in the nation.