Date of Graduation

8-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Agricultural & Extension Education (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology

Advisor

Casandra K. Cox

Committee Member

Leslie D. Edgar

Second Committee Member

Donna L. Graham

Third Committee Member

Amanda P. Perez

Keywords

Cooperative Extension Service, Food security, Local food, Needs assessment, Sustainability, Urban agriculture

Abstract

This project utilized a mixed-method needs assessment approach to urban agriculture in Arkansas, a predominately-rural state. Chapter II was a qualitative study, using semi-structured, in-depth interviews, that investigated the perceptions, needs, and experiences of Arkansas urban farmers and their interactions with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service (CES). Interviews were conducted with 16 urban farmers in Northwest and Central Arkansas. The interview data revealed individualized needs based on the size, years in operation, and mission of each urban farmer interviewed. General needs were determined, such as market pricing, co-ops, and access to appropriate equipment, but generally needs varied widely. Participants revealed a positive perception of CES, though explaining that the organization did not always have resources specific to small-scale, sustainable farming, but there is potential for increased collaboration and communication between Arkansas urban farmers and CES. Future research with this population should follow a phenomenological approach in addition to specific needs assessments grouping farmers with similar production methods.

Chapter III was a quantitative survey with Arkansas agricultural County Extension Agents (CEAs) that investigated their perceptions, awareness, and experiences with urban agriculture in their counties. This survey had a 57% response rate. The survey revealed potential barriers for agents to work with urban farmers in their counties, as well as their perceptions and awareness of urban farming. While 89.4% of participants viewed CES as a valuable resource for urban farmers, 70.2% reported concentrations of urban farming in their counties as relatively low or nonexistent. The interviews were conducted only in two regions of the state,; however, the survey questionnaire was distributed to CEAs statewide.

Recommendations for practice include conducting needs assessments with groups not traditionally supported through CES, such as sustainable or alternative agriculture farmers. Additional needs assessments could improve collaboration and relationship building between CES and underserved populations, increasing face-to-face communication that contributes to increased collaboration between both populations. CES should also identify key personnel within their organization who have previously established relationships with urban farmers to market new programs and advertise CES’s role in urban agricultural support in their state.

Share

COinS