Increasing Farmer Engagement with Conservation Practices Through More Effective Communication Strategies
There is a vast amount of knowledge about the effectiveness of conservation practices but getting farmers to implement these practices remains a significant challenge. Organizations like the Iowa Learning Farms have taken steps to engage farmers but more work is needed to amplify efforts, including to appeal to women or younger farmers or landowners, and to call attention to a greater diversity of conservation practices.
The long-term objective of the project is to enhance farmer and landowner engagement in conservation practices. This project aims to identify more effective message strategies for engaging farmer and landowner audiences – especially women and younger farmers -- in conservation practices aimed at reducing surface water nutrient loss.
To grow engagement, project partners will first evaluate existing conservation messages that appear in agricultural news media and messages produced by key farmer organizations and identify barriers to implementing conservation practices. The messages will be evaluated and messages used by farmers in interviews will also be analyzed. Next, Iowa farmers and landowners will be surveyed to better understand their perspectives on conservation practices and communication preferences. Lastly, project partners will use what they’ve learned to create new messages to encourage conservation adoption, which will be disseminated on multiple social media platforms.
Researchers collaboratively wrote a survey about edge-of-field practices, media habits and conservation opinions. The survey was submitted to IRB, with plans to send to the ILF farmers in early spring. Data collection was finished on the content analysis. A journal article is underway.
A social media campaign is being planned to promote Iowa Learning Farm field days (or other resources like webinars) that will take place late spring or early summer 2021.
Researchers completed a systematic review of articles that surveyed farmers about conservation to prepare for the project survey, which will be drafted in the fall with plans to release in early 2020. However, other strategies may be needed if COVID-19 precludes a large paper mailing.
The team discussed how the social media test might need to transition from attracting people to a field day to attracting people to a webinar, depending on what is going on in the summer of 2021. Co-PI, Dara Witzling’s class in the fall may use ILF as a client to help with ideas for social media -- an example of how the partnership has grown and is involving students.
The strategy for a media content analysis was finalized, but there is a need to revise the coding sheet as it has been difficult to achieve reliability among coders.
The project team has conducted a literature review of survey research related to agriculture and media. In preparation for the content analysis, researchers identified the survey methodology, begun to build the corpus and made a draft coding sheet.