February 2001 // Volume 39 // Number 1 // Tools of the Trade // 1TOT4

Previous Article Issue Contents Previous Article

Field Tours--An Old Tool That Can Still Work

Field tours and workshops continue to be useful tools in Extension education. But holding such events requires careful planning and follow-up to make a successful experience for all involved: planners, presenters, and participants. The authors developed a simple timeline and checklist to help keep the organizers on track.

Stephen E. Hawkins
Assistant Director, Purdue Agricultural Centers
Internet Address: seh@aes.purdue.edu

Ben Southard
Department of Agronomy
Internet Address: bsouthard@purdue.edu

Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana

Extension professionals have acquired new tools of information delivery over the past 15 years in the form of electronic media and the Internet. Although predictions by Patton (1987) of electronic information distribution have come to fruition, county Extension offices have not disappeared as predicted. Having new tools does not mean that old tools do not still work.

Traditional Extension methods are still significant in reaching progressive producers and diffusing research findings and new practices through influential producers. Focused, commodity-specific field tours using multiple disciplines have been identified by several authors as the best use of clientele contact time (Braund, 1995; Suvedi, Lapinski & Campo, 2000).

Francis, Carter, Carusi, and King (2000) discuss the considerations speakers need to establish before accepting an invitation, but that is just one aspect of a meeting or field tour. Once the Extension professional has identified the need for a field tour or workshop, planning a successful event requires assembling the necessary components. The organizers and speakers need to consider specific topics, learning goals, audience, location, content, and evaluation.

We developed a timeline (Table 1) that outlines the necessary tasks involved in planning a Field Tour and specifies the dates by which these tasks should be accomplished. The timeline shown is used for a major field tour that occurs in late summer each year and involves numerous speakers from various disciplines. It can be adapted to less (and more) ambitious educational programs.

Table 1
Timeline for an August 25th Field Tour
Task Date(s)
Hold Initial Planning Session Jan-Feb
Select Topics, Tour Stops, and Speakers May 1
Develop Budget and Assign Duties (See Table 2) May 1
Send Topic List and Date to Ag Communications May 1
Contact and Confirm in the Speakers in Writing June 1
Develop Flyer/Mailer June 20
Apply for CCA, CCH, PAT Credits June 20
Develop News Articles July 1
Send Flyer/Mailer for Special Printing If Needed July 1
Do Not Contact County Educators During County Fair July 1-7
Confirm Lunch Vendor July 15
Distribute Flyer/Mailer July 20
Confirm Speakers' Audio-Visual Needs July 20
Confirm Extra Facilities (e.g., Chairs, Tables, Toilets) July 20
E-mail Reminders to Speakers and Extension Staff August 1
Clear Up Any Loose Ends August 1
Do Not Contact County Educators During State Fair August 9-20
Check on Lunch Vendor August 15
Schedule Set-Up Day If Needed August 24
Enjoy the Field Day August 25
Send Thank You Letters August 26
Complete Clean-Up August 26
Analyze Follow-up Evaluations August 30

We also identified specific areas of responsibility (Table 2) that, if carried out by one individual, could be overwhelming. We have a different individual in charge of each responsibility area, which simplifies and streamlines overall coordination. This group also performs the follow-up evaluations.

Table 2
Checklist of Field Tour Areas of Responsibility
Responsibility Individual in Charge
Program Content  
Publicity - Media Contact  
Continuing Education Credits  
Displays &/or Equipment Vendors  

A timeline and checklist such as the ones we developed may seem like merely a matter of common sense, but they ensure that everything that needs to be considered is considered and help keep the organizers on track. Last fall, we distributed the timeline and checklist to Purdue Extension field staff. Some of them have already started using these simple tools in planning sessions for their 2001 Field Tours. They might help you, too.


Braund, D. G. (1995). Changing paradigms in animal agriculture: The role of academia and industry in technology transfer. Journal of Animal Science, 73, 3173-3177.

Francis, C., Carter, H., Carusi, C., & King, J. (2000) Before you say yes: A planning guide for speakers. Journal of Extension [Online]. 38(4).
Available: http://joe.org/joe/2000august/tt2.html

Patton, M. Q. (1987). Tomorrow's Extension professionals. Journal of Extension [Online]. 25(3).
Available: http://www.joe.org/joe/1987fall/fut1.html

Suvedi, M., Lapinski, M. K. & Campo, S. (2000). Farmer's perspectives of Michigan State University Extension: Trends and lessons from 1996 and 1999. Journal of Extension [Online]. 38(1).
Available: http://joe.org/joe/2000february/a4.html