Texas Extension Agents' Perceptions of Organic Agriculture and Its Implications for Training



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The purpose of this study was to determine Texas AgriLife Extension agents' perceptions of organic agriculture (OA) and implications for training. Primary variables of interest included level of interest in OA in their respective counties, previous training received, interest in future training, perception of OA and Texas AgriLife Extension's involvement in OA. A random sample of agents was selected (n = 151) and a response rate of 81.5 percent was achieved.

A majority of agents indicated interest in OA in their respective counties had increased over the past five years (n = 60), but noted demand was still low (n = 39) to moderate (n = 42). Agents from urban or suburban counties reported higher levels of interests in OA than did agents from rural counties. Agents were most interested in training on organic soil fertility, insect, weed, and disease management and least interested in training on organic certification and transitioning to OA. Agents indicated traditional information resources would be the most useful delivery methods for communicating information about organic farming, which included print publications, a website with organic information and extension workshops. Agents' perceptions of OA and their perceptions of Texas AgriLife Extension's involvement in OA were measured using attitudinal statements using a five point summated scale with reliability estimates r = 0.76 and 0.76 respectively. It was found that agents neither agreed nor disagreed with statements affirming the viability of OA (M = 2.80) and statements advocating Texas AgriLife Extension's involvement in OA (M = 3.38). A stepwise multiple regression was run on the primary variables of interest to determine which variables predicted agents' interest in training. Perceptions of Texas AgriLife Extension's involvement, perceptions of OA, and current level of interest in their county accounted for over 50 percent of the variability. This research concluded that due to agents' general ambivalent attitude toward OA, Texas AgriLife Extension administration will need to advocate more training and programming in OA if they wish to increase their role in OA. For there to be any significant change in the advancement of OA, though, it will require a paradigm shift in the land grant university system (LGUS).