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APEN 2001 International Conference

Toowoomba, 4th-5th October 2001

Report No:


Title of Topic:

Finding a Balance/Middle Ground Between Committed, Passionate Growers and those who are Apathetic for Issues/Management Practices that Require a Regional/Industry Approach

Name of Leader:

Ingrid Christiansen, Australian Cotton CRC/DPI

Names of Participants:

Vanessa Hood, Sam Simpson, Dan Galligan, Julie Ferguson, Megan Connelly

Main points of discussion

Some definitions:

  • Apathy is not about not being involve in a group
  • Here we refer to apathy as growers who are not interested in/practicing better management practices or communicating with neighbours, in particular where the issues/management affects the wider region such as IPM

ie focus on outcomes/practice change rather than group participation

Key question

How to maintain the interest/efforts of committed growers when they are surrounded by apathetic growers.

To avoid burnout amongst extension workers and growers, need to set realistic, achievable goals. Part of this is recognising that, whilst every effort will be made to have all growers managing the specific issue/s, some simply will not be interested. Need to consider and manage for this in the extension process so that interested growers don’t become disillusioned.

Firstly need to understand why there is apathy, eg:

  • Some are already in front of the rest/what is being promoted
  • May not see the perceived problem
  • Cynical about process being used
  • Communication – language barriers
  • Education
  • Don’t see the $ gain – cost/benefit
  • Traditionalism
  • Some directly/deliberately resist

Maintaining enthusiasm amongst committed growers

Encourage them to value the benefit they are gaining

Publicise activities so it is clear that efforts are being made to reach others

Multi-pronged approach

  • Perceptions of “success” or “Doing the right thing” – are they really – subtly challenge to increase on-going improvement/learning. eg IPM has many different levels of adoption
  • Seeing themselves as part of the problem if relevant
  • Benchmarking
  • Mentoring
  • Partnerships
  • Maintaining interest among advanced groups
  • Revisit original goals
  • Some re-set goals each year
  • Group “Contract” eg agree to host a meeting
  • Acknowledge achievements/changes

Overcoming some of the apathy

  • Use a range of different tools eg “case management
  • Growers and agribusiness as advocates – can talk the same language
  • Enlist help from diverse sources
  • Mentoring
  • Acceptance of their role in dealing with the issue
  • Publicise benchmarking from others if acceptable
  • Partnerships
  • Field days on their place – “chance to clean up the shed!”

Other issues

Evaluating the flow through effect of various extension programs is difficult.

  • Ensure that the group is not dependent on the facilitator – requires skill
  • Reality of what they do vs. what they say
  • Check with teachers about some approaches
  • Accept that some things will not change and need to manage/invest efforts appropriately to have maximum benefit and avoid burnout

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