Measuring, Comparing, and Contrasting the Agricultural Paradigmatic Preferences Held by Florida Extension Agents: The Redevelopment of an Instrument to Determine Individual and Collective Preferences



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Significant support for sustainable agriculture practices exists within the land-grant university system nationwide. Despite this fact, many colleges, including the University of Florida, have not evaluated the individual paradigms held by their faculty. An existing Alternative-Conventional Agriculture Paradigm Scale was modified, improved and converted into an electronic instrument that was administered to a random sample of University of Florida Extension Faculty. It is suggested that data collected through this study serves the following purposes: assist the University of Florida?s decision-makers in better understanding the positions held by their Extension agents; allow improvement of educational programming for Extension agents, agricultural professionals, and communities throughout the state; and provide input for improvement of University-wide policy-making and goal-setting.

The study consisted of three phases: a) redevelopment and pilot-test of a new ACAP instrument; b) description of University of Florida Extension faculty?s paradigmatic preferences; and c) determination of any existing relationships between personal characteristics and an individual?s paradigm. A pilot study of the new instrument was conducted with participants belonging to known paradigmatic groups who were not part of the final sample. The survey was found to be reliable with a Cronbach?s alpha coefficient of 0.94 in a pilot test of 26 individuals. The survey was found to discriminate effectively between the two known paradigmatic groups (t=4.091, p= .001), making it a useful tool in quantitatively assessing agricultural preferences.

Following the pilot study, survey research was conducted with a random sample of 188 Extension agents. The majority of faculty aligned with agricultural paradigmatic groups labeled Moderates and Sustainables. Very few of this population aligned with a Conventional paradigm.

Exploratory factor analysis resulted in a preliminary seven-factor solution. Two individual component factors were found to vary based on Extension discipline and gender, which included Size and Scale of Production and Use of Natural Resources, respectively.