Spring 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 1 // Research in Brief // 1RIB4

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Extension Clientele Satisfaction


Karen Rodman Lavis
Program Analyst
Agricultural Representatives Branch
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food
Guelph, Ontario

Donald J. Blackburn
Professor of Rural Extension
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario

People who use Extension more intensively rate it higher than nonusers. That's a major finding of a study conducted in 1986 by Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the University of Guelph. Fifty-seven percent of the 2,000 randomly selected Ontario farmers with annual sales over $12,000 responded to a mail questionnaire. Among respondents, 94% reported having had contact with their local Extension office. The most frequent contact was by print-based mass media, followed by telephone.

Proportionately, large farmers - defined as those with more tillable acres farmed and higher dollar value of farm product sales - contacted local offices more often than did their smaller counterparts. Younger farmers had more intense contact with Extension offices than did older ones. We also found that proportionately, more full-time farmers, and those with less than 90 days annual off-farm employment, had more intense contact with Extension.

Regarding satisfaction with functions performed by the Extension Service, "assisting the 4-H program" was rated highest. Also rated highly were the "provision of bulletins and publications" and "information on government programs." Ratings of "quality of service provided" suggested that the Extension office service was considered moderately good, based on a scale ranging from not at all good to extremely good.

Satisfaction with the services provided by the local agricultural offices wasn't significantly related to farm and farm characteristics, with the exception of age. A larger number of older farmers were more satisfied with the functions provided than were younger producers. The rating of services, however, wasn't related to farmers' financial management practices.

A positive relationship was found between satisfaction and intensity of contact with the local Extension offices. A larger number of users rated the service better than did nonusers. This finding substantiates work by Warner and Christenson indicating that "the level of satisfaction is considerably greater among persons who make repeated use of the service over those who only occasionally use it."1

Challenges to the Extension System identified by the study include the need to give programs such as farm management a more recognizable profile if it's to be considered important in the evaluation process. Likewise, the study reinforced the need to assure that information is both practical and easy to use.


1. Paul Warner and James Christenson, The Cooperative Extension Service - A National Assessment (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1984), p.83.