The Effectiveness of Leadership Development Programs on Small Farm Producers



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Although there were numerous leadership development programs throughout the country, most ignored the small producers located throughout the south. In order to address the needs of these traditionally underserved individuals, the ?National Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute? was created to address the concerns of small farmers in rural communities. This research specifically targeted the effectiveness of leadership development over a period by exploring the factors that motivate the program participants to enhance their leadership skills and the ability to transform that motivation into effective leadership. The group involved in this study is a convenience population of small farmers and ranchers from across the Southern United States, who graduated from the National Small Farm Leadership Institute. These participants represent 2 graduating classes from 2007 and 2009. A retrospective post survey methodology was used to conduct this study. The instrument is divided into a knowledge base before they took the program (pre) and a retrospective post assessment. Each of the questions allowed the participants to rate their ability on a 5 point Likert-Type scale. The responses ranged from 1 to 5 with the following responses Very Poor, Poor, Fair, Good and Very Good. The survey research examined four educational constructs that were covered during the leadership development program. These were Leadership Skill Development, Leadership Theory, Agricultural Skill enhancement and the Transformation of their leadership skills. Through analysis of the four educational constructs the research reveals substantial increases in knowledge and skills such as Group Problem Solving, Consensus Building, Team Building, Group Decision Making and Obtaining information to help in decision making. Participants were definitely found to have increased their leadership skills through teaching of Leadership Philosophy, linkages to Federal and agricultural resources, the appreciation of different styles of leadership and awareness of agricultural policy issues. The study revealed that in each of the four educational construct areas of the National Small Farm Leadership Institute that there were substantial increases in knowledge and changes in behavior such as: understanding and explaining personal leadership philosophy, increased awareness of Agricultural Policy Issues and transferring the leadership back to the community.