Blog 2: Tools of The Trade: AgCom Journals and Resources for Research

In order to understand theory within agricultural communication, it is important to understand the disciple. The articles you read this week were included to do exactly that. Additionally, I wanted to introduce you to the Journal of Applied Communications (JAC). JAC is the only journal dedicated specifically to agricultural communication research.  There are other journals that publish research related to agricultural communication like the Journal of Agricultural Education, Agriculture and Human Values, and the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Journal.

Mainstream communication journals also impact agricultural communication theory and will publish articles related to scientific communication, teaching communication, health communication, and environmental communication, which are all subjects that impact agricultural communication. In order to streamline the process for this course, our selected journal article readings all come from JAC, but please make note of the vast number of different journals cited within the JAC articles we read.

In the article you read this week by Naile, Robertson, and Cartmell they outlined many more details relating to JAC’s history and content. Because they looked at JAC up to 2006, there are some changes I would like to note. JAC used to only be published quarterly, however, recently in 2014 JAC will add one more journal per year. There is a more recent version of the National Research Agenda than the one mentioned in the article, which you can find here. The article also mentions the Agricultural Communication Documentation Center (ACDC), which is an excellent resource for scholarly and popular sources related to agricultural communications.

Table 4 in the publication shows the populations investigated. I would assume that if this study were repeated with articles since 2006, you would see members of the general public as a population investigated frequently. Our communication with members of the general public has increased in this timeframe, and I know of research focusing specifically on these groups,  we will read some later in the semester. What other gaps did you notice in the populations investigated? I would have liked to see an investigation of which theories were utilized in research published in JAC. Do you have other critical evaluations to offer?

There is an organization that focuses on researching perceptions of the general public related to agriculture and natural resources. This organization is the Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (PIE Center). I encourage you to seek out this organization as you explore research and theory related to agricultural communication. The PIE Center has webinars on current research projects that are free to join. You may consider attending one or more of these.

If you’re interested in new and social media research related to agriculture, the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement at Kansas State University focuses on conducting and sharing research on the use of new technology to improve rural livelihoods and producers’ bottomline.

The Irani and Doerfert article you read offered history of agricultural communication and the outlook for the future. I wanted to point out a few things in this article and pose questions for your consideration. First, note the importance given to strategic communication. As you may have guessed from last week’s post, this theme will continue throughout our discussion of theory. Also, the authors’ discussion of the digital age related to agriculture and the green divide. How have you seen these change your communication with audiences? Perhaps this is on behalf of your current job, maybe as a part of a personal advocacy movement, or with members of your family who aren’t familiar with agriculture.

I would also like for you to take note of the discussion related to the academic field. If you graduated with an undergraduate degree in agcom, what do you think about the lack of standardization of course offerings? Do you believe your education would have been enhanced if your program were structured differently? What about dual listing of graduate and undergraduate classes? For those of you in other disciplines, has your academic pursuit been similar? different?

I believe the challenges mentioned related to a low number of faculty positions and small research appointments adversely affect our profession, as the authors mentioned. Recently, PIE Center and the University of Florida have hired faculty members with higher research appointments than teaching or extension appointments. This represents a change in our discipline, which may allow an increase in agricultural communication theory and research productivity. Of course, this is just one institution. Finally, as a class with people from multiple academic disciplines, what do you think about the concept of Figure 1 and multi-disciplinary instructional efforts? What benefits do you see? What challenges exist?

When I first started teaching this course, I struggled to identify the theory used in the discipline of agricultural communication. That is why I developed the study presented in the third journal article you read. The purpose of this study was to describe how theory is used in agricultural communication and what theories are used. This article was a part of the 100th JAC issue and offers a state of the industry related to theory. We will discuss these theories in more detail throughout the course and will discuss how theory can be used an applied. At this point, I just want you to be aware of this article as a resource for theory in the discipline and as a reference for your assignments throughout the semester. In your discussion this week you are welcome to comment on this article too if you have something to say, or just respond to my questions about the other articles.

20 thoughts on “Blog 2: Tools of The Trade: AgCom Journals and Resources for Research

  1. I really enjoyed learning from blog #2. It opened up several ways of thinking for me in relationship to agriculture communication as well as the theories that go along with it. While reviewing table 4, it was the first time that I had taken the time to really study a table regarding theory in depth rather than only looking at it but not studying it. I learned several aspects from table 4. I did not determine any additional evaluations that should have been included. I believe that all channels were used. In addition, I did not have many gaps other than between the video and volunteering aspect of the table where the population dropped.

    Second, in relationship to the portion of the blog discussing courses within agriculture communication, I believe that is critical to the overall success of school programs and the industry as a whole. As a primary student of the University of Missouri-Columbia and part of the Ag Idea program, the courses I have taken have been very versatile. My undergraduate degree is also in the same field therefore I have had the same experience with many of the same courses. For example, both of my degree programs have been heavily involved with Agriculture Communication, Agriculture Journalism, and Agriculture Sales. I have experienced courses related to all aspects of agriculture communication such as social media training and website design. In addition, I did not have the opportunity to experience many dual listing courses within my undergraduate and graduate programs. I knew throughout my undergraduate degree that I had plans to pursue a graduate degree so I was looking into the future in terms of what courses I should take or not take etc. My capstone course was actually an undergraduate and graduate level course. I believe that because many of the courses do have some of the same topic levels it would be prominent to have more dual level courses. I cannot answer related to other disciplines as both of my undergraduate and graduate degrees have been within the same agriculture communication realm.

    Next, the benefits of figure 1 that I found to be important were that it appeared to have all areas covered. The only challenge that I saw was the difficulty for all individuals to fall into at least one of those categories even though the areas covered were very broad.

    In conclusion, I can relate to the difficulty behind the struggle to find the most appropriate theories for this class. As I have went through my agriculture communication path of education I have encountered several theories that I found important but also some very similar as well as some differences. I have never been able to pinpoint the most important issue or topic. Putting myself in the shoes of an instructor, I can see that it would be very difficult to deciding on a specific theory. I look forward to learning from each of you! Good luck in the course!

    Ashlyn Richardson

  2. Table 4 in the examining JAC articles investigated the usual populations that I have seen in agriculture research papers. One gap that I found interesting from the populations is that college students are among the top 4 populations studied but college graduates are among the least. Why is it that once students have graduated we are no longer researching them? Are they identifying with other populations rather than college graduates? How many of the university faculty, extension educators, and other populations have college degrees but are not being classified as part of the graduate population?

    One other aspect I would have liked to be included in the research pertains to table 3. In my research methods class we learned about Dillmans Survey Method. I would like to have seen how many of the mail methods used in research articles utilized the Dillman method. I think it would be interesting to compare the number of articles who used this tried and true method rather than a simple one time mailing.

    The “green divide” and the digital age in agriculture has definitely changed how I communicate with audiences in my current job. As an agriculture teacher, I am constantly facing the disconnect with my students. Many of them come to my class with preconceived notions that have been built up for so long that it takes a lot to break down that stigma. The digital age increasingly helps me with the divide. I am able to easily turn to documentaries or fun parodies to inform my students of current topics or beliefs in agriculture today.

    My academic pursuit has been fairly pleasant with standardization of my courses. My undergraduate degree was in agriculture leadership education. The majority of my courses were all within my department with the same students all 4 years. I only had two core courses that were in the Education department. A majority of my friends that were Ag comm majors had to take some of our leadership classes as part of their major as well as media classes. My sophomore year of undergrad, my university moved the agricultural communications degree to a specialty as part of the college of media.

    I happen to love the idea of response teams that figure 1 represents. Much of what we will do in our career will require us to collaborate with other individuals whose skill set will be different from our own. It seems only right to continue this path when we are in college. I think back to my senior year in our collaborative leadership course where we had to find different stakeholders in the community to partner with us and our “project”. My group happened to have only 2 agriculture education students, 1 agriculture communications major, 1 mathematics major, 1 horticulture major, and 1 mechanical engineer. Our project was to create an educational fresh food booth at the local farmers market to help bring more children to the market. I look at the response teams similar to my group where we had an education major, communication, math, horticulture, and engineer major all the different components we would have needed to make the proper response team for a Food Awareness response.
    I really enjoyed this week’s blog and readings.

    This week has helped me start to think about many different topics in the agricultural communications field. One thought that comes to my mind from this week is that in my education classes we always learn about how important the Morrill Land Grant Act was for agriculture education but we never seem to talk about agriculture communications. It seems to be it would have been a bigger deal for communications since part of the main purpose for the act was to disseminate information to the farmers. I wonder how this was interpreted when the Act was passed. Was it thought primarily for extension agents or was it directed more towards the publications that were being created?

    Christina Peterson

    1. Hi Christina,

      I really enjoyed reading your post. In response to your critiques of Table 4, I like how you pointed out the gap between the college student population and the college graduate population. I wonder, if the smaller investigation of the college graduate population is because many graduates would fall into one of the other populations after college. After reading your post, I think that it would be interesting to have seen the study address how effective the college graduate population found JAC to be. I also think that it would be interesting to see how many college students still read JAC after college.

      Thank you for sharing your insight as a classroom educator on the green divide. In my job, I take students out on ranch tours to learn about the environmental benefits of well-managed cattle grazing, and I am constantly seeking out ways to better inform these students. I’ve done some research on gamification as a potential tool for classroom education, and my organization is currently exploring different ways create materials that will resonate and help us share our message.

      I also found it interesting how your university moved the agricultural communications program to a specialty in the college of media. Were you able to get a sense of what students and professors thought prior to and following the change?
      Like you I really like the idea of the response teams that Figure 1 represents. In terms of an awareness response effort, I think that it is essential that individuals across the whole agriculture spectrum work together. Perhaps a transdisciplinary program would be very beneficial.

      Finally, I loved that you proposed some thought-provoking questions at the end of your responds. The Morrill Act of 1862 was essentially education for the common man and incorporated agriculture. In the early days of the Nation, agricultural communications had a lot of attention, in the way that you laid out- disseminating information to farmers. Long before the Morrill Act, President Washington addressed the importance of disseminating information in his 1796 State of the Union Address, and the history of the evolution of agriculture communications has long been tied to education. If I were to guess, I think that at the time of the passage of the Morrill Act there were many that understood the importance of disseminating agricultural information. This can be seen later in 1889 when the USDA began issuing bulletins, and in 1911 when 71 “educational trains” disseminating information ran throughout 28 states and attracted over 900,000 participants. With that being said, over time agricultural communications seems to have shifted in terms of who the target audience was/is. The agricultural industry now seems to be more focused on the general public rather than education farmers on industrial improvements.

      Thanks for your insights!

      Alyssa S.

    2. Hi Christina,
      I agree with you about the disconnect with students, a majority of my students come to class with a limited if not any at all agricultural experience, most of them can’t understand why we dehorn goats, take dairy claves away from their mothers, or why we castrate piglets. One of my biggest challenges as an agriculture educator is that I sometimes get defensive when people have preconceived notions about farming which doesn’t make the situation any better. After reading your post I realized that there are more things I can do to educate people in a positive light such as documentaries or fun parodies.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
      -Leah D.

  3. While reviewing Table 4 in the article written by Naile, Robertson, and Carmell, I found it very interesting that “only three populations seemed to include agricultural communications industry (non-education professionals)…” (2010). In my opinion, I think that it is crucial for academic professionals and professionals in the private sector of agriculture to build a strong relationship. Moreover, the article did not explain what the criteria was for the “farmers” population. Without knowing the criteria, I would assume that “farmers” only include people involved in production agriculture. Thus, I assume that other agricultural professionals were not included in the “farmers” population. I was surprised to see that other agricultural professionals were not investigated. Today, the agricultural industry seems to be on the defense, and because of that I would argue that many involved in the agricultural industry are utilizing agricultural communications. For example, if the meat industry has an outbreak of salmonella, e. coli, and any other food-borne illness, it takes a team of people (scientists, packing plant managers, finance professionals, communications and PR professionals, etc.) to generate a risk-crisis response strategy- not just the agricultural communications professionals. Thus, it seems like JAC would be relevant to others outside agricultural communications, and would serve as a population that should have been incorporated into the study. However, as Dr. Baker emphasized, this study was only up until 2006, so perhaps if the study were to take place today, other agricultural professionals would be a population investigated.

    Another aspect that I wish the study would have researched is the practicality and usefulness of the JAC articles. It would be interesting to see how these different populations view the degree of usefulness of JAC.

    With the green divide, I have noticed a shift in my communications with different audiences. From a personal standpoint, being involved in the production agriculture and being a partner in my family’s almond operation, I have personally been criticized for my involvement with agriculture. A prime example of this is when the drought struck in California, and dozens of articles were written claiming that almonds were one of the primary cause of the drought. Because of a misinterpreted statistic people believed that almonds used 10% of California’s water, when really almonds only used 9.5% of California’s irrigated agricultural water- not total water (Almond Board of California, 2017). I even had a friend that works for Yahoo in San Francisco tell me that the cafeteria in her office building wasn’t selling any product containing almonds because of the drought. Because there is such a large gap between the public and production agriculture, I have found myself interactions like these time and time again. I’ve noticed that people don’t respond well to statistics that dispute what they’ve heard or think they’ve heard from various news outlets. Instead, I have had the most success in storytelling with the use of statistics. For instance, I always try to explain that farmers are deeply invested in water conservation. I then like to tell them how when my grandfather started growing almonds, we used sprinkler irrigation methods, that wasted a lot of water, but with agricultural technology we have decreased our water usage by nearly 30% by investing in new orchards irrigated by micro sprinklers. With the green divide, I personally have recognized myself and others in agriculture taking on the role of “educator” in the hopes of improving agriculture literacy.

    I did not major in agricultural communications as an undergraduate student, and my university did not offer an agriculture communications degree option. Instead, I majored in animal science so I can’t speak to the lack of standardization in agricultural communications course offerings. As an animal science major, I took a lot of science courses outside of the animal science department. For me, this helped broaden my scope of knowledge in the science field, and I don’t see this as a negative. The science classes that I took outside of the animal science department were more challenging and helped me understand the material learned in my animal science classes- I learned to view the big picture, rather than a zoomed in image. However, from an agriculture communications program standpoint, I can see that there could be opportunities for enhancement, especially at universities that lump agriculture education and communications into one major. Based on common sense only it also seems like dual listed graduate and undergraduate classes would limit the effectiveness of the graduate program. Agricultural communications is very complex, so a standalone program that does not offer dual listed graduate and undergraduate classes seems like it could be more beneficial.

    When looking at concept in Figure 1 in the article written by Irani and Doefert, I see potential benefits to multi-disciplinary instructional efforts. As I noted in my example above involving the meat industry, I noted that people in different roles must work together to devise effective response strategies. Perhaps, transdisciplinary research and teaching would allow students in transdisciplinary programs to learn multiple disciplines that would better prepare them for the workforce. With my experience as an undergraduate student, I feel like my education only prepared me for a few of my many responsibilities that I have in my current job. I honestly feel like a transdisciplinary program would have been more beneficial. However, while this idea has its benefits, I also see a potential challenge. In a society that seems to reward specialization, would a transdisciplinary degree program be an effective educational path for a student to take?

    I really enjoyed the blog post and the articles in this week’s lesson. One thing that I’d like to note is that the study published by Naile, Robertson, and Cartmel found that only 35% of respondents found that peer-reviewed publishing is required for career advancement (2010). I believe that this may be (at least partially) a result of the small number of agricultural communications professors with research appointments that, Irani and Doefert allude to in their article (2013).

    Almond Board of California [Almond Board of California] (2015). The Bigger Picture: California, Almonds + Water. Retrieved from

    Irani, Tracy and Doerfert, David L. (2013) “Preparing for the Next 150 Years of Agricultural Communications,” Journal of Applied Communications: Vol. 97: Iss. 2.

    Naile, Traci L.; Robertson, J. Tanner; and Cartmell, D. Dwayne II (2010) “Examining JAC: An Analysis of the Scholarly Progression of the Journal of Applied Communications,” Journal of Applied Communications: Vol. 94: Iss. 1.

    1. Alyssa,

      I also agree with you that a paragraph explaining the criteria to fall into all of the populations would be helpful. This could clear up both of our concerns about why certain populations were not highlighted. It is important to note that this only covers 10 years ago. It is within those last 10 years that we really started to see a shift in the consumers focus and desire to learn more about agriculture.

      I love how you point out the crisis response team when discussing figure 4. This goes to show just how important it is to incorporate the same strategies when we are looking at academia. I do see your point about our culture rewarding specializations. It would be interesting to do a study with professionals in communications and education that already embrace the diversity of degrees in the profession. This study could cover their feelings about how their field would react to the response teams.

      Your thought about a study investigating how useful the JAC is for each of their profession is a great idea. This makes me wonder how they determined those populations even further. Was it a convenience sampling of those who already subscribe to the magazine?

      Thanks for the great thoughts!

      Christina P.

  4. While Table 4 shows a broad scope of populations studied, I can’t help but to think that maybe age groups play a role as well. Of course grad students and professionals are typically separated by age/maturity, but what about breaking the populations into age groups. Or a completely different study with one population and different age groups. Different generations communicate differently and that should be a factor in the studies. I believe all ages could offer vital information to progress and improve agriculture communications. Conducting this study again maybe useful to see how the populations may have shifted through time. As mentioned before by Dr. Baker, the general public may be included in more recent studies as they become a vital part of agricultural communication.

    As Irani and Doefert discuss the green divide, I can’t help to feel a bit remorseful. As an advocate of agriculture, I am not sure that I have prepared myself to have controversial conversations with consumers. At times, I am too comfortable in my agricultural community to even share how positive agriculture is in the world to the general public. Living in small communities has sheltered me in a way that I am uncomfortable stepping outside my comfort zone to share about agriculture. But as I grow as an individual and continue to learn about the impact of agriculture on not just our community, but the world, I understand how important it is to openly have discussions with everyone – including the public. To me, this doesn’t mean defending myself and agriculture, but having meaningful conversations and listening to the concerns of people. It is a wonderful aspect to have the consumers more involved in our research and progress as we evolve agriculture in order to work towards a common goal.

    As an undergraduate in agronomy, I felt that the program offered all courses not only in the agronomy department, but also plant pathology, ag economics and other sciences. Unfortunately, as I completed my study, I wasn’t exactly sure what career I wanted to pursue upon graduation, I just knew I wanted to be working in agriculture and specifically with crops. As I have entered the work force, I have a better understanding of what I want to be doing for a career – hence why I am pursuing my graduate degree.

    In response to Figure 1, and the restructure of research and teaching, I believe this setup would be beneficiary to some individuals, but maybe not all. The makeup of different disciplines make the end goal/career more specific. As I began my undergraduate degree, this figure would not be a good fit for me, unless it helped “weed-out” what I was no longer interested in. Now, this make up would be perfect, because I know what my end goal is. Overall, I believe that Figure 1 would succeed at the University Level.


    1. Jessie,

      I couldn’t agree more with your idea to compare the age gaps within the populations. I think going further, it would be helpful to have a general overview of all the ages associated with the complete synopsis of the populations. This would help show who was researched. These results could show a researcher bias for some age groups. Going even further into the general public notion that we all have mentioned since Dr. Baker brought it up. I wonder what the results would look like if we did have a research article with the general public and their age. Would the newer generation trend upward in their knowledge of agriculture while the older trend downwards? Would they be about the same level of knowledge?

      I love how you mention you felt sheltered in our own agriculture community. When I was in Illinois, I felt comfortable with my knowledge and ability to have discussions about agriculture but once I moved to North Dakota, I started to witness how sheltered I felt as well. Each state and community has different issues and different agriculture needs. I like to reflect on one of my students who I had her freshman year. She grew up in a small North Dakota town but was never exposed to classroom agriculture or had an interest. My class was required for freshman at this school. She took the class, joined FFA, and attended State Convention. While there she was able to have a meaningful conversation about agriculture with Dupont at the State Convention just because she started listening and taking an interest in what they were saying! I think so much of the green divide could be helped by just listening and having meaningful conversations.

      Great post this week, I can’t wait to keep learning from you!

      Christina P.

    2. Hi Jessie,

      I completely agree with your idea that age will probably have an effect on the population. I don’t necessarily see the need to make the populations purely into age categories, but I definitely think within each population, age needs to be a defining factor and examined.

      Another point I agree with you on is dealing with controversial conversations with people. I think it is inevitably going to be a part of the future, and I’m still a little uneasy about handling it myself. I’ve had some training on this through the Center for Food Integrity, and after going through that process, I think if we incorporate the basics into our conversations, we can begin to feel more comfortable. These are all things we know, but sometimes forget, such as two-way communication, listening, addressing concerns, being truthful, admitting when we’re wrong and what we don’t know, etc. I think these concepts are a great base for learning to be more comfortable with those conversations. I know I’m still nowhere near where I’d like to be on this issue, but by keeping these ideas in mind, I believe they help keep me focused on important aspects.

      I enjoyed reading your post this week! Looking forward to learning from you the rest of the semester.


  5. Alyssa,

    I agree with your thoughts about specifying the populations in Table 4, especially with farmers. There are so many different age groups of farmers or types of farmers involved in agriculture. Are they discussing farmers raising animals, specialty crops, grain, conventional farmers, etc. It is important to specify these populations. As these studies start to include the general public more – it is important to specify age group, connection to agriculture, location and other factors.

    I also agree that the agriculture community seems to be on defense, and at times this is reasonable. I believe that if we are more open to the the consumers concerns, they will be more open to what we have to say. Professionals in ag communications could help guide the rest of the agriculture community to have effective conversations with the general public.


  6. For blog post #2, I found the articles assigned, to be very insightful and help me grasp the concepts of theory in agricultural communications. In regard to table #4, in the article written by Naile, Robertson, and Cartmell. I felt the groups that had been researched, were for the most part, individuals who were in some shape tied to agriculture through extension, education, or an agricultural career. Like Dr. Baker had mentioned, I think the general public was over looked in these study’s. As more and more individuals become interested in where their food is coming from, they have the power to steer what changes the industry makes. With that being said, I also think it would be interesting to study the agricultural industries and leading companies like Cargill, Tyson, National Beef, and so on, to see how over the years agricultural communication has made head way for new regulations and product output. One other gap in the populations investigated, that I noticed, could be youth. With the population of individuals engaged and directly involved with agriculture declining, it would be interesting to see if youth was introduced and exposed to agriculture at an earlier age, if there would be an increase in agricultural related positions in the future.

    Although I am rather new to research and theory’s, I do have one critical evaluation to offer over the Naile, Robertson, and Carmell journal. After examining table #4, and evaluating the populations investigated, I got to wondering what the different studies were. I know that each study was probably different from the next and it would have been very tedious to explain and write about each study but I think it would have been interesting to see the difference between the certain populations and the content of the study being researched.

    In the article written by Irani and Doerfert, the discussion about the green divide really hits home in a couple of ways for me. Growing up in the city agriculture was always kind of a mystery to me. The closest connection I had at the time, was my father worked for Cargill, in the beef division. I can remember him coming home and talking to us about “swine flu” and “pink slime.” He would always educate us on the scientific names and talk to us about what it meant for us and tell us we did not need to be worried. At the time, I did not think anything of it, but now I can see my father, in a way, was being an advocate for his industry. Now I completely understand the importance of getting ahead of the media and educating the population so it does not have an adverse effect on the industry. Now that I am involved in the industry myself, I can see that communication is no longer just reporting news or educating people. It has grown into being an advocate for the industry and being aware of strategic communication. I have a lot of friends who have no idea what agriculture entails and they will see something on facebook or in the news and ask me questions about it. I always try and answer to the best of my knowledge but if I am not a hundred percent sure, I am honest with them and tell them I do not have an answer. Even though it is a conversation between two friends, I would hate to have a negative impact on the industry from my own negligence.

    My undergrad was in animal science so the classes were fairly structured and regulated. During my undergrad, I appreciated this because I really was clueless and having a set course schedule was one less thing to worry about. I would like to point out however, that I enjoy the fact that my Master’s is not so highly standardized. I am able to gear my degree more specifically towards what I want. I feel like it allows for more freedom and specificity.

    When looking at figure 1, I really like the multi-disciplinary concept. I feel like with this approach students could benefit from an array of knowledge from different backgrounds. Students could also narrow in on what specifically they were wanting to do in the work force and this would be extremely beneficial for that aspect. With the being said, I can also see a fault in this. Students who are not sure exactly what it is they want to do might find this overwhelming and a turn off to higher education. I could also potentially see students who know exactly what it is they want to do when they graduate, see it as a waste of time and money to take classes in other fields, when they have no interest.

    The third journal we read, I found to be extremely helpful! I have been struggling to grasp the concepts of theory’s and how many there are in communications. To see a chart with actual data was such a relief to be able to piece things together and start to make sense of everything!

    1. Hi Kelsey,

      A study of the agricultural industry’s leading companies and their effects on the general public would be very interesting! In regards to your dad’s way of handling issues in agriculture, that is great. We, as an industry, need people to be aware of the real science and to explain things calmly so that fear does not allow crazy things to happen. I suppose that is why we are studying agricultural communications!
      I was unfamiliar with agricultural communications and what all the discipline entails until recently so I completely agree with your points on strategic communication and the importance of communicating effectively.
      I, too, think that a multi-disciplinary instructional system could be beneficial but I had not thought about those who already know what they want to study seeing it as a potential waste of time. That’s an interesting thought.


  7. I found this week’s reading to be very interesting as I was not familiar with the agricultural communications discipline before I started looking into graduate school. Before choosing Kansas State University, I visited Virginia Tech, one of Virginia’s land grant universities, and found that they offered a degree in Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education but did not do anything with agricultural communications. I was and am surprised because of the school’s proximity to Washington D.C. and other highly populated and urban areas that house many of the critics of agriculture in general. I was also disappointed because agricultural communications is as necessary and needed today as it was in 1862 when the Morill Act was passed. As stated in Irani and Doerfert’s article, the purpose of agricultural journalism is to reach rural populations. I found it interesting that Table 4 in the article by Naile, Robertson, and Cartmell did not include small town or rural audiences. Perhaps some of the agricultural newspaper and magazine subscribers could fit into the rural population, but I still think that it is fascinating that they are not explicitly mentioned.

    When reading about the history of agricultural communications, it was obvious that the focus of many forms of agricultural journalism and communication today is strategic in a different way than it was at its origin. Research and Extension programs still communicate to rural and agrarian populations, as they were set up to do, but many other agricultural communications now focus on educating the public and attempting to dispel myths that have spread through the industrialized public that has very little, if any, connection to farming. Not only has content changed, but technologies have evolved as well including the rise of social media. Any news, correct or incorrect, is now available all the time in whatever form of media the reader chooses.

    I have seen many of my agriculture friends and farmers that I worked with through Virginia Cooperative Extension use Facebook and social media as a way to educate about what they are doing on their farms. While a lot of their posts are positive and include cute pictures of baby animals or delicious-looking produce, some messages are direct and controversial. As we are all now “citizen journalists” in some fashion, the need for trained agricultural journalists is growing.

    In my undergraduate agribusiness and horticulture programs, we rarely talked about agricultural communications. We did talk about current issues in agriculture but did not focus on how we, as agriculturalists, should effectively communicate to the public about them. Irani and Doerfert stressed that, for the success of the discipline, connecting globally and with transdisciplinary teams will allow growth in both undergraduate and graduate programs worldwide. To be a farmer or an advocate for agriculture today means you are some kind of communicator. I can certainly see how I would have benefitted from even taking a few agricultural communications classes and think that they should be added to undergraduate agriculture programs worldwide.

    In Irani and Doerfert’s article, Figure 1 presents a very interesting concept. For my Bachelor’s degrees, I studied agriculture, horticulture, and Spanish, which was, in a small way, transdisciplinary. I think that combining related fields makes a graduate’s skills much more marketable. After graduating, because I spoke Spanish, I was hired over others. Because I had willing professors who gave me the chance to research and learn about agriculture in Spanish-speaking countries, I was able to not only speak to my Hispanic co-workers but also to establish deeper connections with them.

    Though it may be beneficial, I do not think that restructuring our current university teaching is something that can be done overnight. A major challenge is convincing those “higher up” that a change is needed, as restructuring any large system is a complicated and time-consuming project. That being said, I do think that a slow progression toward a multi-disciplinary instructional system is probably where we should be headed. With so many people graduating from college with specific degrees, it makes it hard for many recent graduates to get a job. I have been grateful to have skills that set me apart from my peers and think that it only makes sense to have well-rounded students become valuable parts of the workforce by training them in more than one related field.

    While I am still working on understanding theories and how they are used in research, I found the article by Baker and King helpful in defining the need for theories. I found the history of theory interesting and helpful as well. It surprised me that theories do not seem to be consistently used in agricultural communications and I hope that we, as agricultural communications students, can help change that.

    -Deanna R.

    1. Hey Deanna!

      When I applied to graduate school I was fortunate and extremely lucky that K-state had exactly what I was looking for so I did not consider any other universities. It never donned on me that agricultural communications was a new and upcoming area of academia and so few universities offered it as a major. You bring up such a good point about including small towns and rural audiences to include in the gap of populations investigated. I completely over looked that population. They are such a huge part of agriculture, it would be interesting to see the studies that would come about from that population.

      Social media is a newer concept that has hit the industry by storm. I think it is extremely vital that we use it to our advantage. You bring up a great point that news, whether true or not, can be posted by anyone and it is so important that we do everything we can to dispel myths and get the right information to people as fast as we can. I also think it is important we inform the public in a way that is welcoming and not in way that states “we are right and you are wrong.”

      During my undergrad, they did not offer any courses or majors related to agricultural communications that I was aware of. I could not agree more with you on the stance of requiring some form of communications class for all students majoring in any form of agriculture. It never hurts to have a well-rounded education! In my undergrad, I was required to take agronomy courses as well as agricultural business classes, I think adding a communications course is a brilliant idea. We all could use a little training on how to approach certain issue and the use of social media when it comes to the industry.

      It sounds like you yourself had a bit of a multi-disciplinary education and it sounds like it has created many opportunities for you. I myself, wish I would have minored in something or double majored, to have the opportunity to learn about other areas of academics. It is a great personal marketing tool for future employers.

      I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and insight on this week’s articles.


    2. Deanna,

      I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this week’s readings. I went to K-State as an undergraduate student, and while I did not study agcom, I was in the ag education program within the same department. Having spent my undergraduate career at a university that offered a standalone agcom program, I had thought this was “the norm” until researching graduate programs, much like your experience. I was surprised to find many universities did not offer specific agcom programs. I agree with you that ag communication is as necessary, and would say that it is needed now more than ever before.

      I could not agree more that there is a need for agricultural communications to be integrated into undergraduate agriculture programs across the board. Having studied ag education and now working in cooperative extension, I wish that I would have been able (courses were available, but did not fit into my course of study) take agcom courses, as communication is a large part of my job in extension now. Your own personal version of a multi-discipline undergraduate career speaks to the benefits of studying a multi-disciplinary instructional system, like that depicted in Irani and Doerfert’s Figure 1. I can see how creating a multi-disciplinary agcom program would be hard to balance teaching students in-depth content while also trying to offer coursework in other disciplines. Agcom is already complex, offering a curriculum with advertising, journalism, photography, public relations, public speaking and telecommunications content, as well as agriculture content in agricultural economics, agricultural leadership, agronomy, animal science, environmental science and food science technology. To me it already seems like ag communicators are asked to be a “jack of all trades” in the agricultural industry. I wonder if a multi-disciplinary curriculum would create a graduate who only has surface-level knowledge of many different areas, rather than a more in-depth understanding of the discipline.

      I enjoyed reading your thoughts this week!


    3. Hi Deanna,

      I agree with your statement that any news, correct or incorrect, is now available all the time in whatever form of media while this can be beneficial I have seen it be extremely harmful to local farmers. Recently a hog farmer was scrutinized on a local news network because someone had gone undercover and recorded video footage of what they believed to be mistreatment of animals. The video footage was taken out of context and displayed all over tv, claiming animal abuse charges before the case even hit the court room. By this media coverage it not only gave a bad rep for the farmer but it casted a bad light over our entire agriculture community. In the end no charges were filed against this farmer because no evidence of animal abuse was found by court officials. For me this just goes to show how easy it is for the media to paint a negative picture about agriculture.
      I do think that Facebook is a wonderful tool to educate others about agriculture. I often try to publish any positive stories I see, but once I did use it to educate my friends on the lack of knowledge there seems to be in my community about farming. For example, I offered my neighbor farm fresh eggs to be a kind neighbor. Their response to me was that they could only eat eggs that came from the store not eggs that came from chickens in a chicken coop.
      Thanks for sharing!
      -Leah D.

  8. I found “table 4” from the article interesting. I agree with Dr. Baker that an updated version of this table would include more members of the general public as an investigated population. Along with more general public representation, I would have liked to have seen more research investigating populations in different geographical areas including urban, semi-urban and rural populations. As my classmates have pointed out, we can only assume what the criteria are to be included in the “farmer” category. Additional information about the criteria for each population would be helpful.

    The “green divide” is what originally sparked my interest in pursuing a degree in agriculture. I enrolled in ag classes in high school and immediately began seeing differences between what I was learning in school and my family’s understanding of agriculture and consumer habits. I felt enlightened as I learned more about agriculture and was able to share that information with my own family. As I learn more about agriculture, I continue to be driven to play the role of “myth buster” in my personal life and in my professional life as an extension educator. The green divide that I have experienced in my own life is even bigger for those who might not have access to agricultural education in their schools or those who live in more urban areas.

    My undergraduate degree is in agricultural education, so I cannot speak to the lack of standardization of course offerings in agcom specifically. According to the article, having two separate standalone degree programs for agcom and ag education was not common. We were fortunate to have the two degree programs and course offerings that were specific to each. As an ag education student, I did take many courses within other ag programs, such as agronomy, animal science and horticulture courses. Having these courses allowed me to broaden my understanding of many areas of agriculture.

    While I believe it is important to have the academic support that a specific agcom degree program can offer, I also thinks that the “response team” idea from figure one is great. As an Extension Agent, I am challenged to meet the needs of our community through education and programming efforts. With so many unique and diverse community needs, I do not feel like I have the background knowledge to provide information or programming to meet those needs. With a holistic approach to a degree program like that shown in figure one, graduates could be better prepared to address the changing needs of agriculture and society.

    Irani, Tracy and Doerfert, David L. (2013) “Preparing for the Next 150 Years of Agricultural Communications,” Journal of Applied Communications: Vol. 97: Iss. 2.
    Naile, Traci L.; Robertson, J. Tanner; and Cartmell, D. Dwayne II (2010) “Examining JAC: An Analysis of the Scholarly Progression of the Journal of Applied Communications,” Journal of Applied Communications: Vol. 94: Iss. 1.

    1. Hannah thanks for sharing!
      The thing that I appreciate the most about Ag education degrees is the ability to take courses in a variety of courses within the Ag programs. I feel that as students in agriculture we must be able to speak intelligently about varies aspects in the industry and I think that broadening ones understanding in the many areas of agriculture is a great step in the right direction for that.

      I especially enjoyed reading about how you began seeing differences between what you were learning in school and your family’s understanding of agriculture and consumer habits. I feel that it would be extremely beneficial if we incorporated agriculture education courses into all of our high school classrooms across the country.
      Thanks for sharing,
      Leah D.

  9. In the article published by Naile, Robertson, and Cartmell, I found several gaps, or suggested areas for further research, in the populations studied. As Dr. Baker stated, agricultural communicators are increasingly communicating with the public, so it should be an area to consider when conducting research ideas around populations. Additionally, I found gaps within their definitions of several terms. To start off, I think it should be established as to whether the “college students” and “graduates” are majoring or graduated in agricultural communications or not. If they are not, I believe agricultural communications college students and agricultural communications graduates should each have their own population, in addition to college students and college graduates. I believe this is necessary because they may have different insight and views of agricultural-focused topics versus a non-major student or graduate. Another area of focus that I believe needed more clarity and focus was the “farmers” population. I would have liked to seen more investigations into all the different variations and specifications of “farmers”. I also believe there may be a better all-encompassing, general term to summarize the population studied.

    While reading the Irani and Doerfert, I definitely sensed a strategic need in the discipline. As they discussed the increasing number of professionals, students, academicians, and practioners, they still emphasized a need for more people and more research for those people to build on and utilize. As we shift to the digital age, communication between agricultural communicators and the public is changing. Through my personal experience, most jobs and organizations I have been a part of have been more digitally focused – just within the past four years. In addition, I think my communication has changed when explaining and discussing my area of study to the public. I think it’s our job as students, professionals, practitioners, and academicians to really take the time to discuss what it is we do and engage with those who ask about it. When asked about what I’m studying at school, I really try and make it a point to help others understand what it is and why it is important. This can be in the form of in-person communication or, of course, digital communication.

    As a recent agricultural communications graduate, I think structure and standardization of courses should have variation. The way I see it, if they were all the same, there would be no variety, growth, or strengths. I think different institutions should have similar base requirements, such as writing and editing skills. Beyond that, I think variation is good. For example, if I wanted to be more versed in video production, I would attend a university with a program that has classes to emphasize videography. I wouldn’t say different structuring would have necessarily enhanced my education, but I think I would have had different strengths/weaknesses or interests, if structures were changed. I wouldn’t say dual listing of courses really inhibited me in any way. In our program, I felt I had enough course options to learn from. However, I do think it would be valuable for students considering gradate school to be able to take an introductory or base course in theory to see if it’s something they would be interested in further pursuing.

    In Irani and Doerfer’s Figure 1, I believe this is exactly what we, as agricultural communicators, strive for. I think this really fits into how our academic program is structured as well. We are required to take a certain amount of hours within another specific major, in addition to our agricultural communications courses. Personally, I see this as a mini version of Figure 1. In many of my classes, I worked with students studying a different major. This allowed us to learn from each other and utilize strengths and weaknesses to our advantage. On a more general agricultural view, I think this is what we should strive for in future communication efforts in our jobs and research.

    Overall, I thought it was interesting to learn about the history and some aspects that could be maybe considered flaws of the discipline. I think it’s good to review these types of articles to know what’s been done, and more importantly, as a reminder of what we should be working toward in the future.

  10. Digital technology has changed every aspect of our daily lives even the agricultural industry. From the beginning when technology was first introduced to this industry it changed how agriculture delivered its messages, most information was published in newspapers etc. Today the amount of power a person can hold in the palm of their hand through a cellphone has also had an impact on agriculture. A farmer can track weather patterns, access market information, and get paid for their crops all with the touch of a button. While new technologies have greatly improved communication in the agricultural industry it has also had a negative result. 150 years ago nearly everyone grew up on a farm, now with less people growing up with that background there are fewer people who are able to relate to that industry. Now it is easier than ever to publish something for the world to easily see, there are times when the media can easily publish horror stories on farmers. With social media it is now easier than ever to scrutinize people, and it is now that much easier for the agricultural community to be scrutinized.

    I don’t believe that standardization enhances education, if anything I feel that standardization leads to a loss of creativity in the student. So much of my high school education was focused on standardized tests, in high school I often found myself becoming disengaged with material I was struggling with due to hopelessness. I admit some benefits of standardization in education is supplying a curriculum which reduces harm to students if done by a poor teacher. The part that bothers me about standardization is that it imposes one correct way to achieve learning outcomes and doesn’t give any other alternatives if that learning style does not work for you. I think that the concepts shown in figure 1 serves as an outlet for professional development articles/ publications and it directly impacts the direction of ag communication research. A challenge that I see beginning to exist is the lack of theoretical discussion, JAC may lack in developing theories/ developing a proposed way of thinking.

    Leah D.

Leave a Reply