To better understand the role of demonstrations in the decision-adoption process a team of researchers in Indiana analyzed survey data from those who attended cover crop demonstration sites or field days and obtained further insight through in-depth interviews with 28 agricultural producers who had attended an event in one of the three counties (Singh et al, 2018). Using survey data, the researchers analyzed responses to questions from those who attended cover crop demonstration days (n = 85) to understand why those demonstrations may have had an effect on their adoption decisions (Singh et al, 2018). Agricultural producers reported having learned about many aspects of the practice, suggesting that no single aspect had dominated or been omitted from the events (Singh et al, 2018). The figure below illustrates agricultural producers’ opinions on what they learned about cover crops as a result of attending a demonstration event held in their area (Singh et al, 2018).
Most agricultural producers agreed or strongly agreed that each of the seven aspects asked about was helpful in learning about cover crops and in making a decision about whether to adopt (Singh et al, 2018). While this may not identify which category is important to the decision-adoption process, it does indicate that Extension educators should speak to each category (e.g., requirements of implementation) during a cover crop demonstrations and field days (Singh et al, 2018).
During the analysis of the transcribed interviews from different agricultural producers, researchers identified attitudes toward cover crops and themes to explain why demonstration sites and field days influenced adoption decisions (Singh et al, 2018). Themes that emerged from interviews were social learning, localizing information, and identifying and understanding criteria needed to make an adoption decision (Singh et al, 2018).
Interviewees frequently discussed the opportunity to learn from other agricultural producers and experts who are outside of their social or professional network (Singh et al, 2018). Learning from experts and other agricultural producers allows them to collect information to inform their decision to adopt, change their adoption, or discontinue their use (Singh et al, 2018). Demonstration sites and field days provided an opportunity to have, as one producer stated, an “exchange of ideas” (Singh et al, 2018). Demonstration sites and field days for cover crops helped interviewees see experiences of other agricultural producers and hear from experts about new ways of planting cover crops and using new methods and technology (Singh et al, 2018). One interviewee said, “[Extension is] going to bring professionals to you. It would be hard for me to go and find a professional that has looked at it, read about it, done tests” (Singh et al, 2018).
This study clearly suggests demonstration sites and field days continue to be an effective component for Extension educational initiatives (Singh et al, 2018). Findings indicate that there is a medium to large effect of attendance on the adoption of conservation practices (Singh et al, 2018). In-depth interviews with agricultural producers indicated that demonstration sites and field days provide an opportunity for social learning, gathering information that has been localized and identifying criteria that may need to be taken into consideration when making the decision to adopt a practice (Singh et al, 2018).
Singh, A. S., MacGowan, B. J., O’Donnell, M., Ulrich-Schad, J. D., Dunn, M., Klotz, H., & Prokopy, L. S. (2018). The influence of demonstration sites and field days on adoption of conservation practices. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation.