As part of their work to promote effective agricultural technical assistance, researchers with the Thriving Ag project have developed a smart phone app to facilitate collaborative data collection about technical assistance providers’ farm visits. Farm visits are where technical assistance providers meet with farmers to discuss how best to reduce nutrient and sediment runoff and to address on-farm resources problems like erosion. These farm visits are a crucial step in promoting sustainable agriculture, because they lead to the development of conservation plans and help farmers seek out financial assistance for implementing conservation practices, such as forested riparian buffers, manure storage facilities, and grassed waterways.
The smart phone app – called TApp, or the Technical Assistance App – will provide technical assistance providers with a common platform to record information about their farm visits. The app will allow them to track what on-farm problems farmers want to address, what conservation practices they are interested in, and any concerns they have about the practices or application process. Once this information is entered into the app after a farm visit, technical assistance providers will be able to refer back to it and see profiles of the farmers with whom they work with and records of their one-on-one interactions with those farmers.
Currently, the Thriving Ag team is pilot testing the app with technical assistance providers from non-profits, conservation districts, and private consultancies. Once it is ready for full use, it will enable to the team to collaboratively test the effectiveness of different engagement strategies during farm visits. The hope is that this app will be both a useful tool for technical assistance providers to organize their work with farmers and a platform for further research on effective practices for engaging farmers about conservation.
For further questions about the mobile app, or Thriving Ag’s work on collaborating for effective agricultural technical assistance, please contact either Daniel Read (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Lisa Wainger (email@example.com).