Developing qualitative research design for mutually beneficial researcher farmer relationships
19/03/2013 By: Joel Aitken BSc AgrDeveloping Qualitative Research Design for Mutually Beneficial Researcher/Farmer Relationships
Why you should browse thisPresentation? If you are completing research, particularly qualitative research in a rural area, and more specifically with farmers, this presentation is for you. If you have an interest in qualitative research methods If you want to learn why the chicken crossed the road...maybe notWho I am, and where I come from... My name is Joel and I am a farm kid at heart. Raised in a rural house across the road from Maplewood Farm, which has been in my family for nearly 150 years, I’ve been learning from farmers since the day I was born. I have a BSc Agr in Agroecosystem Management from the Univesity of Guelph, I work as an organic inspector and am working towards an MSc in Capacity Development and Extension, also at U of G.
Remember who you are working with...Most farmers would rather be here... ...Then just about anywhere else.
Tips for talking with farmers from 1955 To start things off I’m going back to 1955 and a study of game birds by Robert A McCabe which includes a fantastic description of how to interview farmers in a research context. “If an interviewer showed interest in the farm as well as the game on it, a most cordial relationship resulted, and any formal atmosphere gave way to a friendly chat about agriculture generally and game [the research topic] specifically” “The Midwest Farmer is apt to be reticent to discuss his farm and the game on it [a given research topic] to a casual passerby. One very important way to gain his confidence is by proper introduction. Be sure to pronounce your name clearly so that it is understood. Next, explain your affiliation and the purpose of your visit.”
“Coming directly to the point may be fine when interviewing an office manager, but the farmer generally wants to converse a little before being asked pointed questions; apparently this preliminary conversation gives him a chance to size up the interviewer. The time allotted by the farmer will depend a good deal on the impression one makes in this brief post introduction chatting.” “The shift of talk of farming to game on the farm [research topic] occurs almost without effort. If your questions are carefully chosen, and timed to cover the salient points rapidly, much can be learned and you will be welcome again.”
Lessons Learned Establishing a rapport early is the most important step Honesty, sincere interest, and openness will all help establish this rapport. Once a rapport is established be efficient with the questions The questions should be relatively informal The schedule should be flexible, allowing time for chatting Introductions should be clear and complete The interviewer should make an effort to show the interviewee their level of agricultural knowledge Including their area of expertise and areas where they may have lots to learn, and be open to learn.
Things that have Changed since 1955 Academic research and writing standards Use of gender non-specific pronouns Use of more formal writing style in published papers Farm sizes have significantly increased since 1955, many more farms are now managed as businesses with employees who may have heavy workloads, off farm jobs are more common. Specificity of on-farm research, it may be relatively simple to change a conversation on farming in general towards a common bird seen on the farm, this may be more difficult with a more specific modern research topic.
A Modern Perspective A study published in 2013 of UK farmers and their perspectives of the HACCP system by Juliette Patricia Lowe and Joanne Zaida Taylor, utilized narrative interviews as a qualitative research tool. They explain that: “Bates (2004) regards the technique of narrative interviewing as being able to stimulate storytelling and encourage interviewees to describe an event or events as they saw it, in their own language, using their own terms of reference and emphasise actions or participants which they regard as being significant.”
Lessons from the Modern Perspective The importance of voice and allowing the interviewee the opportunity to use their own words and perspective The process of stimulating conversation and rapport building remains crucial An increased formality and separation between the interviewer and interviewee, in order to not influence the perspective of the interviewee in the research Increased specificity of terminology surrounding research process, methodology and data collection
Lessons from experience Farming is a weather related and seasonal activity take this into account in your planning For example here in Ontario most farmers have plenty of free time in February and March and would likely be more willing to speak with a research then in May through September when they are much busier. Weather: Be flexible, at some times of the year there may be work that requires very specific weather conditions (planting , harvesting, etc.) Time can be very tight during these times and research may need to be rescheduled in order to get quality results
The Farm Dog On my first day of field work as an undergraduate research tech I was taught a lesson about on-farm research that I will never forget. We arrived at our first farm with an experienced extension worker who was helping with the project. The first thing she did upon getting out of her car was call the farm dog over by name and gave it a pat on the head. Later we were talking about interacting with farmers and she told me that the second name she memorizes on each new farm is the dogs name, after only the farmers name. Her interaction with the farm dog at the start of each visit set the mood of calm relaxed confidence and fun that would continue throughout the interaction. First impressions are important even if they are with the Dog!
Things to remember going forward Their is a balance to be struck between formality and casual discussion Honesty, openness and clarity are always the best way to build rapport Time is precious, be efficient, flexible and generous with your time and theirs Planning and preparation are essential to ensure quality results and happy comfortable research participants Respect the farmer, their farm, their crops, their dog, their livestock, their decisions, their voice... Research is all about Respect It’s the little things that count when building a research relationship
Productive Comments Appreciated !Sources Some Data on Wisconsin Pheasants Obtained by Interviewing Farmers. Robert A. McCabe. The Journal ofWildlife Management , Vol. 19, No. 1 (Jan., 1955), pp. 150-151, Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society Barriers to HACCP amongst UK farmers and growers: an in-depth qualitative study. Juliette Patricia Lowe and Joanne Zaida Taylor. British Food Journal, Vol. 115 No. 2 (2013), pp. 262-278, Published by:Emerald Group Publishing Limited Photographs: Author’s Own Developing Qualitative Research Design for Mutually Beneficial Researcher/Farmer Relationships by Joel Aitken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.