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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

What Have We Learned from Teaching Computer Applications to Farmers?

Farm Business Management Update, February 1998

By Gordon Groover and Lex Bruce of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

Since 1994, Virginia Cooperative Extension specialists and agents have taught 2 and 3-day workshops to more than1200 farm managers in 88 locations in Virginia. Computer Classroom on Wheels (CCW) workshop classes included introduction to farm business computing; introduction, intermediate, and advanced farm record keeping using Quicken; introduction to spreadsheet applications; farming the Internet; introduction to QuickBooks, computerized pesticide record keeping; introduction to PC-DART, and beef cow herd management.

To understand the impact of the CCW workshops a survey was mailed to all 1996 and 1997 (345 workshop participants providing a complete address). The survey was conducted in three mailings in October and November. Incomplete and/or incorrect addresses resulted in 43 returned surveys leaving a population of 302. Participants returned 222 usable surveys yielding a 74 percent response rate.

Highlights of the survey:

What have we learned? Teaching hands-on computer application has provided a valuable service to Virginia's farmers. Virginia's farmers are interested in obtaining hands-on instruction in basic computer applications and how computer applications can be used in day-to-day management. Once mastering basic skills, many farmers are actively seeking additional training in business, livestock, field, and pesticide record keeping and knowledge on how to use this information in analysis and planning.

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