Bergefurd, Brad R. 2011, Master of Science, Ohio State University, Agricultural and Extension Education.
Cooperative Extension has a 100-year history of working within the national system of land-grant universities to assist in the growth of farmers and the agriculture industry. Amish and Mennonite farmers are one of the producer groups that directly benefit from the Extension system. In order to provide effective future Extension programming efforts for this particular clientele, a mail survey was conducted to describe Ohio Amish and Mennonite farmers who participate at Ohio produce auctions, especially their communication and educational needs.
A profile of the typical Ohio Amish or Mennonite farmer who sells at Ohio produce auctions is a white male aged 30 to 49 years and farming is his primary occupation. Ninety-four percent (94%) of respondents have less than a twelfth grade education and 84% don’t belong to any Ohio farm organization or association. Less than 3% of Ohio Amish and Mennonite produce farmers use the Internet to obtain farming information. Fifty-six percent (55.6%) of Ohio Amish and Mennonite farmers reported annual farm sales of $10,000 to $49,999 while 5.9% reported sales of $100,000 to $500,000 with 60.9% reporting that more than 50% of their farm income is generated through produce sales. Fifty-two percent (52.1%) of respondents use a combination of organic and conventional farming practices but only 5% are certified organic.
Ohio Amish and Mennonite produce auction farmers obtain information from a variety of sources. The top three sources of information used 10 or more times a year are university bulletins, newsletters, newspaper and magazine articles. Amish and Mennonite produce auction farmers also communicate more than 10 times a year with other farmers in their community and they do not use Information and Communication Technology (ICT’s) to acquire information with 97% never using the Internet. More than 94% of Ohio Amish and Mennonite produce farmers are aware of Ohio State University Extension and greater than 83% have used or benefited from OSU Extension in the past. These data indicate that Ohio State University Extension has contributed to the success of Ohio Amish and Mennonite produce farmers by providing information sources that increased knowledge applicable to their produce farming businesses. Ohio Amish and Mennonite produce farmers ranked crop nutrition, insect management, disease management, soil fertility and food safety as topics of greatest importance in terms of their Extension needs.
This research was to determine extension methods best suited for Ohio Amish and Mennonite produce farmers. A multiple-output extension strategy, requiring more interpersonal contacts should be used. An opportunity also exists to reach those Amish and Mennonite produce farmers not currently utilizing the resources available from the OSU South Centers at Piketon. Findings from this study can be used to develop new programs designed to address extension needs of Ohio Amish and Mennonite produce farmers.