Today, I’m going to wrap up the breakdown of the recent needs assessment released by the Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI). In previous posts, I have broken down the structured interviews (click here) and the UME survey results (click here). In this post, we will focus on the educational outreach methods UME faculty thought would work the best in reaching agricultural producers in the state. If you are interested in the viewing the survey instrument, please click here (https://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_docs/programs/alep/UME%20Survey%20Instrument.pdf).
Chart 1 shows the top 5 statewide issues from the UME survey and UME respondents views on the most appropriate form of outreach, such as attend a meeting in the county, download a fact sheet, participate in a webinar, attend a workshop within 75 to 100 miles of their home, or watch a web video. The chart shows that for 3 out of 5 top issues, UME respondents thought respondents would want to attend a county workshop. But is attending a county workshop the most effective way to reach an audience? For some producers, workshops will not be effective. For example, a workshop could be scheduled for the day a producer cannot attend and therefore they will miss the information. Similarly, at the time of the workshop, a producer may consider the issue being presented to be unimportant but will need the information at a future time. Regional conferences present the same challenge, they may happen on a day that the producer has something else going on or the producer may not view the information as important to he/she on the day the regional workshop is held.
Downloading a fact sheet or watching a web video may be more effective or at least allow for a producer to watch or read on their schedule. These methods allow producers to access the information when it is relevant to their situation and utilize it in a timely fashion.
Webinars also offer the same opportunity to provide producers with information that is relevant in a recorded fashion that is available on their schedule. Although the webinar may happen at a time inconvenient for the producer, the webinar can be recorded and made available online to watch whenever is convenient for the producer. Webinars also provide the opportunity for those participating to ask questions of the speaker to clarify issues and potentially questions being asked during the webinar may mirror questions those watching later may have to inform producers watching.
So you can see, the main issue is not knowing what method of presenting information is best potentially which method that will provide the best impact to producers. We realize that many producers do not have access to high speed internet that would allow them to watch web videos, participate in a webinar, or watch a recorded webinar. But at the same time we realize some producers will find those to be the most convenient and timely when they realize a legal issue is important to them.
Finally, the results do not say ALEI members will prefer one method of delivery over another. To me the results demonstrate, we potentially have to be flexible by being willing to utilize traditional methods of outreach (fact sheets and county meetings) but at the same time we have to be willing to utilize new forms of outreach to make sure we have resources available that will reach producers when the information becomes relevant to he/she (web videos).
If you have an issue that you think we should be covering on here, please let us know here. We are always looking for new topics to cover that impact Maryland agriculture.
I conclude with my normal reminder that ALEI will be conducting a survey of Maryland agricultural producers in January and February of 2015. If you receive that survey please take a moment to complete that survey. Let us know your top legal issues and methods of outreach that will work effectively for you. This information will be valuable as we move forward in meeting the legal needs of Maryland agricultural producers.