15th Congress Proceedings
Determining Educational Needs: A Focus Group Approach
The first step in planning and delivering a successful program is to identify the needs and interests of the target audience. The North Central Risk Management Education Center, which provides grants for educational programs for producers in the 12 north central states in the US, conducted a series of focus groups with producers. The goals of the focus groups were to: 1) determine the impact of funded programs; 2) assess risk management education needs of producers; 3) assess preferred delivery methods; and 4) determine program characteristics that will enhance participation. The participants had an average age of 45 which is about 12 years younger than the average age of all farmers. With 1,861 acres of owned and rented land, they had slightly larger operations than the average producer. Labor availability and management was the most common educational concern. Marketing of traditional commodities continues to be a high priority. Related priorities were developing value-added businesses and developing niche markets for new products and farm-related services. Associated concerns were liability insurance needs, reliable supply of needed inputs and government regulations involved in new enterprises. In terms of disseminating information on education programs, direct mail delivery is preferred as email may not be checked regularly in busy periods. Mailings should be directed to both husbands and wives. Program fees are not only acceptable but are viewed as an indicator of quality and credible information. Keywords: focus groups, risk management, education needs, labor, marketing, human risk.