August 2002 // Volume 40 // Number 4 // Tools of the Trade // 4TOT5

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Summer "Hands-On" Pesticide Re-Certification

Do farmers prefer winter classroom meetings or summer, outdoor, "hands-on" training? Recently, some ANR agents in Ohio decided a "hands-on" teaching method was needed to assist farmers, helping them better understanding issues surrounding pesticide use. A summer "hands-on" training opportunity was provided as an alternative to winter classroom meetings. A survey was developed to compare this "hands-on" educational method to traditional winter meetings, and an 80% response rate was achieved. The summer "hands-on" meeting, on a Likert-type scale, rated 4.70. Extension agents in this East district cluster also prefer summer training to winter re-certification meetings.

Stephen Schumacher
Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources
Belmont County
St. Clairsville, Ohio
Internet Address:

Mark Landefeld
Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources
Monroe County
Woodsfield, Ohio
Internet Address:

Ohio State University Extension

Do farmers prefer winter classroom meetings or summer outdoor, "hands-on" type trainings? A cluster of five Agriculture and Natural Resource (ANR) agents in Southeastern Ohio have used a "hands-on" approach to pesticide re-certification the past 4 years. Breaking away from traditional winter classroom meetings, agents in the East District are offering a private applicator re-certification class in the summer.

Using facilities at the Eastern Ohio Resource Development Center (E.O.R.D.C.), agents conduct much of the re-certification in the field using alfalfa, corn, and pasture fields as the classroom. Livestock are also available for demonstration purposes during training sessions for category #8 (livestock and livestock buildings) re-certification. Pesticide re-certification classes teach information for specific categories. Category determination is based on what the pesticide is used for.

The summer program begins indoors, where information for the Core category (general pesticide topics such as wind drift, sprayer calibration, or personal protective clothing, etc.) is discussed. PowerPoint slides, conventional slides, and overhead presentations are used to teach this portion of the material. Clientele then move into nearby fields to look at various crops.

Diseases, insects (beneficial and non-beneficial), growth stages, fertility, weeds, sampling procedures, economic threshold levels, and other topics are discussed. Clientele are urged to take part in discussions and to attempt to diagnose problems or pests that are seen. Sampling methods using a sweep net are demonstrated. Insect identification is accomplished using samples that are taken prior to the program, placed into clear plastic bags, then circulated throughout the group.

In pasture fields, small groups are formed and asked to identify pre-selected weeds that are flagged and numbered. These groups are given a few minutes to look at the weeds, identify them, and write the names on a form. Then participants decide if the plant is an annual, biennial, or a perennial. Discussion then takes place to correctly identify each specimen and its life cycle. Clientele are asked "What chemical or other management practice may be implemented to control or correct the problems observed?" Options are discussed, and several scenarios are shared.

Benefits for Clientele

Better Received

Information is easier to remember when more sensing abilities are engaged. Hearing discussion, seeing problems in the field, being able to observe plants that have been affected by insects/disease(s), and taking part in the steps to calibrate spray equipment, makes the information more realistic and applicable.

More Practical

Applicators are more willing to join in conversation during "hands-on" meetings. Sharing accumulated life experiences and knowledge obtained through practice is beneficial to other participants. Identifying pests correctly is the first step in making decisions about possible control methods. Clientele can see problems that are present and relate these situations to their farms. Identification of different life stages of pests, diseases, and or weeds may be discussed when viewed.

Benefits for Extension Agents

  1. This group effort fosters increased teamwork among the five agents involved in the cluster.

  2. Curriculum and materials developed at the summer "hands-on" meeting have been used to improve meetings during the winter. Pictures taken in the summer, with digital cameras, are presented in PowerPoint presentations.

  3. This activity has increased the number of clientele visiting and using the facilities at the Eastern Ohio Resource and Development Center.

  4. The five agents have developed more specific "Specialization Areas" for presenting re-certification classes.

  5. ANR agents have reduced winter meetings. Offering summer pesticide re-certification classes reduces the number of clientele who need to be re-certified during the winter. Summer "hands-on" meetings allow agents to consolidate and to reduce the number of trainings offered during the winter. Summer meetings also allow agents to utilize a slow period during the summer.


A survey was developed to compare the "hands-on" training method to the winter classroom approach. An 80% response rate was achieved. When asked to compare the summer "hands-on" training to the winter classroom meetings, participants rated the summer meeting as a 4.70 on a Likert-type scale, with one being poor and five being excellent. When rating how they were assisted in learning and how much they remembered the topics, the winter meetings scored a 3.55 and the summer "hands-on" training scored a 4.26.

In response to open-ended questions, respondents shared comments such as:

  • "It's a change of pace."
  • "Seeing makes it simple."
  • "A handful of vegetation or bugs is worth 1,000 words."
  • "Much better."
  • "Easier to understand. We could see the plants that grow in our fields."


Summer "hands-on" pesticide re-certification is beneficial in many ways. Both clientele and ANR agents prefer the format of these meetings. Teaching with a "hands-on" approach will continue in the East District agent cluster.