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Meeting Producers Where They Are: A Farmer-Centered Approach to Understanding the Needs of Historically Underserved

Amy Cole

Amy Skoczlas Cole

President of Trust In Food

Kansas City, KS

Trust In Food™ explores how producers think, feel, and make decisions around climate-smart agriculture to make every dollar invested work harder and smarter

Trust In Food’s work is powered by the database of Farm Journal, U.S. agriculture’s largest and most trusted source of agriculture information.

We know that a change on the ground only happens after a producer makes a series of complex decisions.

We study the core drivers of decision-making, including often overlooked social, cultural, and psychological factors. These Human Dimensions of Change are the leading indicators of farmers’ readiness to consider and implement change. When used in complement to technical assistance and innovative financial support, our research is showing that we can reach and influence field-level practice change faster. We can also influence the “moveable middle” of producers who have previously been out of reach.

This work is especially critical for historically underserved producers, for whom there is a lack of documented information about their attitudes, needs, and lived experiences in undertaking conservation agriculture practice change. Our work with FFAR on understanding how Historically underserved populations view and experience conservation agriculture practice change is essential to supporting implementing partners on the ground in meeting their needs and unique experiences.

Our project, Using Data to Accelerate Understanding of Historically Underserved Producers’ Needs, will apply data insights to bridge social and cultural gaps in regenerative agriculture readiness amongst Black row-crop farmers and women ranchers in key geographies. Guided by an advisory group to ensure cultural appropriateness, we will use surveys and individual interviews to assess attitudes, barriers, and challenges to adopting regenerative practices and provide strategies to address and overcome them. This fusion of quantitative and qualitative research will allow us to better understand the many nuanced needs of underserved producers in their own words, reinforced by new research to paint the full picture.

FFAR’s investment to understand historically underserved producers’ attitudes, needs, and experiences will benefit all of conservation agriculture, as we’ll conduct two webinars to share our actionable findings, inviting stakeholders across the sector to discuss the implications of the research and providing support to apply the insights to accelerate the impact of applicable regenerative ag outreach and programming.

About the Author

Amy Skoczlas Cole is President of Trust In Food. Over the course of a nearly 30-year conservation career spanning Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits and foundations, Amy has worked to reimagine the systems that deliver clean water, sustainable food and low-carbon energy to society. She has worked domestically and internationally at every point in the food-fuel-fiber value chain, advancing new paradigms for a healthy, thriving society and planet. Amy obtained her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Public Policy from Vanderbilt University and achieved her MBA from George Washington University School of Business.