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Survey and interviews help understand the ways farmers make decisions

Project PI: Dietrich Earnhart, Department of Economics, University of Kansas

A team of Kansas NSF EPSCoR researchers has been learning a great deal about ways that Kansas farmers make decisions. They poured through 2,317 responses to the first wave of surveys distributed to 10,000 Kansas farmers. From the pool of survey respondents, researchers also conducted in-depth, qualitative interviews with 151 farmers during the summer and fall of 2011. The survey responses were distributed across Kansas following the distribution of crop farms in the state, as shown below.

The integration of quantitative survey data and qualitative interview data allows for a detailed understanding of the ways that farmers make decisions. Once complete, these integrated data will be combined with other data associated with the farmers, such as historical cropping patterns, soil conditions, temperature, and rainfall.

            Spatial distribution of First Wave Survey Respondents     Farmer's Survey

The survey inquired about cropping choices, land use practices, farm characteristics, and farmers’ attitudes, among other things. During summer and fall of 2011, the survey data were entered, cleaned, and prepared for analysis.

Interesting results emerged from the survey responses. For example, farmers rated their planned crop rotation as the most important factor that affects their planting decisions, more important than weather variability, soil conditions, and crop prices.

Like the surveys, the interviewees were from all parts of Kansas. The goal of the interviews was to develop a richer understanding of the factors that influence farmers’ decisions. Due to the large number of interviews, their length (the longest interview lasted eight hours), and the complexity of the topic, researchers spent much time developing a strategy for accurately coding the interview data. The coding should be completed in the summer of 2012. Once the coding is complete, the data will be available for review and analysis.

 

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