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Conference Name Participatory Research and Education Increases Impact and Adoption Rate for New Practices

Cindy Fake


In the foothills of northern California, small-scale farmers and ranchers are confronted by high input and land costs, a declining and increasingly expensive labor force, and ever more unpredictable weather. In response to these challenges, University of California Cooperative Extension has collaborated with producers to develop and deliver training and conduct applied field research to solve local agricultural problems and improve farm viability.

Farmers and ranchers are integral to the development and delivery of our research and extension efforts. Research has shown that if producers know and trust each other, they are more likely to adopt a practice used by another producer. Our experience shows that involving producers in the design and conduct of research and as trainers and experts in extension and training leads to more rapid information dissemination and adoption of new practices. Producer involvement and peer-to-peer sharing also improves implementation of new practices by fine-tuning the method or technology with producer expertise. We have used participatory methods across a range of issues, including business management, production practices, and risk management planning.

This presentation will discuss several examples of participatory training and research related to reducing production and human risks. These include small-group peer-to-peer education for livestock producers (Grazing Geeks) and citrus growers (Mandarin Field Meetings) as well as participatory research on citrus production practices and drought adaptation strategies. The shared knowledge and implementation of best practices within a producer community helps reduce risk across the community, strengthening the community and increasing economic viability.