Spring 1988 // Volume 26 // Number 1 // Feature Articles // 1FEA6

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Now Hear This!


Julius Obahayujie
Agricultural Officer
Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Sciences
Bendal State, Nigeria

John Hillison
Associate Professor
Agricultural Education
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University-Blacksburg

One of the issues facing Extension agents is how to best get information to their clientele. Frequently raised questions are: What are the best ways to get the message across? Should I use different methods with different groups? What do my clientele think of the different methods? Do they perceive some as being more effective than others?

Ways to Reach Clientele

In their study, Wilson and Gallup classified methods into the categories of individual contact, group contact, and mass contact.1 Agents must choose the best method from these categories for the clientele being served. Should agents emphasize individual contact methods, such as farm visits and office calls, that permit eye contact and personal attention but take more time? Should they use group contact methods, such as tours and demonstration meetings, that encourage group discussion but frequently create scheduling problems? What about mass contact methods, such as bulletins, radio spots, and exhibits, that can reach a large number of people in a minimal amount of time but don't permit the personal touch of eye contact? Or should dissemination methods vary with different kinds of clientele?

This study was done to determine differences in how part-time and full-time beef farmers assess methods used by Extension agricultural agents. A second purpose was to formulate a recommendation about these methods.


The study used a descriptive research design. The population for the study was 1,202 beef farmers in five counties of southwestern Virginia. These farmers were on Extension's mailing list because they had at least one contact with Extension. The research instrument used was a modification of one developed by Lyons.2

A total of 201 (67%) usable responses were received from 300 questionnaires mailed to randomly selected subjects. A telephone follow-up was conducted with 14 randomly selected nonrespondents. Analysis comparing the respondents to nonrespondents indicated no statistical difference between the two groups.

For purposes of the study, a part-time beef farmer was defined as an individual who made less than 50% of his/her income from the sale of beef cattle and a full-time beef farmer was defined as an individual who made more than 50% of his/her income this way.


Table 1 displays the rankings and assessment scores of part-time and full-time beef farmers for different methods of disseminating information. Using a scale of 1 to 4, with 4 being the most effective, the average rating was 2.96 (part-time) and 2.97 (full-time) where 3.00 was defined as more effective than ineffective.

The method rated highest by part-time farmers was on-farm demonstration, with a mean of 3.29. The highest ratings given by full-time farmers were for newsletters/publications and visits to experiment stations, also with means of 3.29. The lowest rated method for both groups was cartoons.

Additional differences can be found by examining the 10 highest ranked dissemination methods. The part-time farmers had six individual contact methods, two group contact methods, and two mass contact methods in their top 10. By contrast, full-time farmers had five individual contact methods, one group contact method, and four mass contact methods in their top 10. Individual contact methods that were ranked differently by the groups included on-farm demonstration (ranked first by part-time and ninth by full-time farmers) and farm and home visits (ranked fourth by part-time and seventeenth by full-time farmers).

Both groups agreed on the six lowest ranked methods: visits to universities, news stories, posters, clinics, computer messages, and cartoons.

Table 1. Assessment scores for methods of disseminating Extension information.

Ranking Mean Method Ranking Mean
1.5 3.29 Newsletters/publications 2 3.21
1.5 3.29 Visits to experiment stations 6.5 3.15
3 3.27 Telephone calls 12 3.05
4 3.22 Office calls 6.5 3.15
5 3.16 Personal letters 8 3.14
6 3.15 Bulletins 13 3.01
7.5 3.13 Tours/field trips 5 3.16
7.5 3.13 Radio programs 17 2.95
9 3.09 On-farm demonstrations 1 3.29
10 3.07 Leaflets/pamphlets 9.5 3.09
11.5 3.02 Workshops 3 3.19
11.5 3.02 Conferences 16 2.96
13.5 3.00 Presentations at meetings 9.5 3.09
13.5 3.00 Lectures at meetings 15 2.97
15 2.96 Exhibits 18 2.92
16 2.95 Television programs 14 3.00
17 2.93 Farm and home visits 4 3.17
18 2.84 Visits by specialists 11 3.06
19 2.82 Visits to universities 19 2.87
20 2.80 News stories 21 2.70
21.5 2.71 Posters 20 2.72
21.5 2.71 Clinics 22 2.67
23 2.38 Computer messages 23 2.36
24 2.25 Cartoons 24 2.16
Note: Possible range of 1 to 4, with 4 being the most effective.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Part-time and full-time beef farmers should be reached by different methods. Part-time beef farmers preferred more individual contact methods, such as on-farm demonstrations and farm and home visits, but full-time farmers preferred mass contact methods, such as newsletters/publications, bulletins, radio programs, and leaflets/pamphlets.

Both groups agreed on the least favored methods. These methods should be deemphasized. Over time, an exception could be made for computer messages as more farmers purchase microcomputers.

Overall, both groups were more pleased than displeased with the dissemination methods used. Extension agriculture agents working with these farmers can be proud of that fact. They can increase satisfaction even more by emphasizing the uniqueness of each group.

This study has implications for other Extension personnel. The clientele served and its unique characteristics must be kept in mind. The methods used must coincide with the maturity, education level, background, and objective of the audience being served. When agents use methods compatible with their clientele, they'll be both more effective and efficient.


1. M. C. Wilson and G. Gallup, Extension Teaching Methods (Washington, D.C.: Extension Circular No. 495, 1955). 2. Lorenza Lyons, A Study of Attitudes, Participation, and Knowledge of Flue-Cured Tobacco Producers Concerning the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service (Ph.D. dissertation, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, 1982).