ACC00007 - GRDC Extension and training program

Project Summary

Project Start Date
16 June 2013
Project End Date
30 December 2016
Supervisor Name
William (Bill) Long
Ag Consulting Co Pty Ltd

It is estimated that more than 50% of farmers across Australia use farm consultants to assist in decision making. Many of the farmers using consultants operate large enterprises, which suggests that the majority of the cropping area is under the influence of consultancy services. While consultants are technically highly skilled, there are very few opportunities for them to improve skills in information delivery techniques in short-course format designed specifically for the grains industry.

This project will provide a training and development program which builds on the skills currently utilised by experienced agronomists and extension personnel in information delivery processes. The training will fast-track adoption of new technology and outputs of GRDC programs. Attendees will also build skills in mentoring and coaching. This will assist in the adoption process through improved knowledge of decision-making processes, resulting in empowerment of farmers to make decisions with assistance from, rather than dependency on, advisors. Through the mentoring and coaching training, such skills will also be transferable to farming systems groups members and younger agronomists in the advisory sector. Attendees will also develop a comprehensive understanding of GRDC and where it fits within the Australian Research and Development system and how individual consultants can best effectively engage with it and related organisations.

The program will improve the communication process and hence the relationship between the attendees, the groups they represent, and GRDC program team members and staff. Improved communication between GRDC program teams and the advisory sector is seen as a key benefit of this program. Key GRDC program team representatives will play an integral part in the program. Access to GRDC-funded research program outcomes will be improved, facilitating faster roll out of relevant information to growers.

This project will provide a training and development program for extension agronomists, farming-system group coordinators, agribusiness, consultants and research agronomists who are actively involved in extension and adoption of GRDC project outcomes. Attendees need not be involved directly in specific GRDC-funded projects.

The training program is targeted at experienced advisors who have made a significant contribution within their regions, have a long-term vision for the industry and wish to further their leadership, extension and mentoring skills. Participants apply for the extension training and development program and are selected by a panel. Eight participants are selected from the southern zones each year.

Successful applicants are announced at GRDC Research Updates, with a national networking dinner in Canberra in conjunction with the first stage of the training.

The training program will be conducted in two phases. The first component focuses on developing skills and understanding farmer decision-making processes and the extension and adoption process. This will improve participant understanding of the psychology of change. Attendees will develop and improve their understanding of how farmers deal with change under stress conditions. This will be achieved through a facilitated workshop process using a combination of shared experiences and specialised delivery from extension specialists.

The second phase consists of a field tour where attendees will view the latest agronomic developments and gain skills in taking science to the farmer in a practical way. They will also develop skills in presentation styles and how to work with their farmer clients and peers as a mentor in a 'coach-like' way. Participants will recognise the need for ongoing training support in this area and will be encouraged to participate in future training activities through extension organisations such as APEN. Attendees will also benefit by viewing the latest technology not available to them in their region providing them with new ideas and enthusiasm.

Participants will develop an action plan to continue their learning outcomes from the program and be mentored over a 12-month period as they implement their learnings in their workplace. They will be required to transfer skills learned to a grower group or other advisors in their community using a mentoring approach.

Case studies will be developed with the awardees to highlight successful adoption and extension process. These case studies will be made available to the advisory sector to assist and develop skills in best-practice extension process.

The program will also provide a network of 'extension champions' who can link to specific GRDC research programs to influence and improve research focus and direction and improve communication of research outcomes directly to farming-systems groups and farmer stakeholders.

The program will provide an opportunity to recognise and improve positive affirmation in the advisory sector. Consultants will be more encouraging and supportive and improve image and self esteem in the industry.


Published Date
3 February 2016

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