The results from a selection of responses in the questionnaires are presented below, focusing on the similarities and discrepancies found between the two groups. The results are structured around three main themes: motives for a farmer using or not using advisory services, preferred approach by the advisor, and future demands on advisory services and their importance today. A short analysis based on the results is presented after each theme.
Farmers’ motives for using or not using advisory services
Questions about the motives behind farmers’ decision on using, or not using, advisory services were included in the questionnaire. The advisors were asked about what motives farmers have when using, or not using, advisory services, while the farmers were asked about the motives they have for using, or not using, advisory services.
When comparing the responses to the different statements related to motives, the greatest discrepancy between the advisors and farmers was found for ‘Use as a sounding board’ (t = 14.1) (Table 3). The advisors considered that to be the most important motive, while the farmers didn’t consider it as important and were also more varied in their answers (Table 3). The second largest discrepancy was found for the motive ‘Help to lead change’ (t = 11.6), which the advisors considered more important than the farmers (Table 3). Large discrepancies were also found for the motives ‘Get new ideas’ and ‘Get challenged’ (t = 8.7 and 7.9, respectively) (Table 3).
For the motives ‘Avoiding mistakes’ and ‘Increased profitability’ the difference between advisors and farmers were smaller, but still significant (t = 2.1 and 2.7, respectively) (Table 3). For farmers ‘Increased profitability’ was assessed to be the most important motive for choosing to use advisory services. There were no significant differences between the groups for the motives ‘Saving money’ (t = 0.6) and ‘Saving time’ (t = 0.9) (Table 3).
The statements for which significant discrepancies were found had some similarities. These motives (‘Use as sounding board’, ‘Help to lead change’, ‘Get new ideas’ and ‘Get challenged’) had no clear definition and no clear mission, for either the advisors or the farmers. The statements for which no significant differences were found, on the other hand, were linked to the advisor’s traditional role as a specialist, where there are well defined questions and missions. All these motives (‘Save money’, ‘Save time’, ‘Avoid mistakes’ and ‘Increase profitability’) were also considered more important by the farmers, compared with the motives for which significant discrepancies were found.
The analysis within the advisor group did not show any differences based on gender, age or type of employment for any of the statements. For the analysis within the group of farmers, differences for the statements ‘Get new ideas’, ‘Use as sounding board’ and ‘Get challenged’ emerged. The youngest quartile of farmers, Q1, considered ‘Use as sounding board’ a more important motive than farmers in Q3 (p = 0.008) and Q4 (p = 0.001). A similar pattern was found for the motive ‘Get challenged’, where Q1 was the only group scoring it as important (mean 4.6), differing significantly (p < 0.001) from other age groups. The statement ‘Get challenged’ showed differences between different types of production, with poultry, pig and arable farmers all scoring that motive as important (above 4), while the other production types did not.
Among the motives for not using advisory services, the largest discrepancy between advisors and farmers was found for ‘Lack of appealing choices’ (t = 14.2) (Table 4). The advisors considered this motive to be more important than the farmers (Table 4). The second largest discrepancy was found for the motive ‘Previous bad experience’ (t = 10.5), which was again considered to be more important by the advisors than by the farmers (Table 4). There were also significant discrepancies in the motives ‘Don’t know who to turn to’ (t = 9.1) and ‘Too expensive’ (t = 7.4) (Table 4). The motive ‘Advisors have limited knowledge’ was the only statement for which there was no significant difference (t = 0.2) between the groups regarding the motives for not using advisory services (Table 4).
The three motives with the largest discrepancies for not using advisory services were considered to be of importance by the advisors (mean score above 4), while the mean value for the farmers was below 4, indicating that they considered them less important. All these motives (‘Lack of appealing choices’, Previous bad experience’ and ‘Don’t know who to turn to’) are connected to the ability of advisors and advisory services to meet farmers’ needs. The motive ‘Too expensive’ showed a significant discrepancy between the two groups. Though both advisors and farmers considered it to be the most important motive not to use advisory services (Table 4).
Regarding the statements connected to the motives for not using advisory services, differences were found within the group of advisors and the group of farmers. Female advisors scored the motive ‘Previous bad experience’ and ‘Too expensive’ as more important than the men (p = 0.041 and p = 0.021, respectively). The statement ‘Previous bad experience’ also showed differences with age, with the Q2 group of advisors differing from both Q3 (p = 0.002) and Q4 (p = 0.027), scoring it as more important than the other age groups (mean 5.5). The analysis within the farmer group did not show any differences based on gender or age, but showed differences for the statement ‘Lack of appealing choices’ on type of production. Poultry farmers scored this motive as important (mean 5.2), while all other production types did not. The largest differences were seen when comparing poultry farmers to dairy and beef farmers.
Preferred approach of advisors
When giving advice, the approach of the advisor will affect the communication with the farmer, and hence the outcome of the advice given. In the questionnaire “approach” was described as the way the advisor acts when interacting with the farmer. The advisors were asked which approach they thought farmers prefer, while farmers were asked which approach by the advisor they prefer.
The largest discrepancies between the groups were found for ‘Coaching’ and ‘Passive’ (t = 11.2 and 11.0, respectively) (Table 5). Significant discrepancies were also found for ‘Driven’ and ‘Proactive’ (t = 4.8 and 4.6, respectively) (Table 5). The only non-significant difference between the groups was found for ‘Demanding’ (t = 1.6) (Table 5).
The statements about preferred approach showed the most concordant responses between advisors and farmers among the themes. Regarding ‘Coaching’ and ‘Demanding’, the responses from both groups showed large variation, even though they represented the largest and the smallest discrepancy, respectively (Table 5). This probably means that for both advisors and farmers, these approaches are more of a personal preference than a general attitude within each group. For the other approaches listed, farmers responded across the whole scale, while the advisors were more uniform in their responses. However, the mean value for both groups was on the same side of the scale. Another interesting finding was that even though both farmers and advisors assessed ‘Passive’ as not wanted, the farmers were not as negative as the advisors and 25% of the farmers answered either/or (4) or above (Table 5). It is also worth noting that ‘Driven’ and ‘Proactive’ were considered more wanted than ‘Help to lead change’, even though a driven and proactive advisor will most likely contribute to change (Tables 3, 5).
The analysis within the advisor group showed differences based on gender. Women advisors perceived both ‘Demanding’ and ‘Passive’ as less wanted by farmers than their male colleagues (p = 0.012 and 0.003, respectively). No differences were found regarding age. On analysing the approach ‘Driven’, differences were found depending on type of employment (p = 0.035), with advisors working at FBOs scoring it as more likely to be preferred by farmers. The analysis based on gender also showed differences within the group of farmers. The ‘Passive’ approach was scored as less wanted by women farmers (p = 0.027). There were also gender differences on the ‘Coaching’ approach, which women scored as more preferable than men (p = 0.042). When analysing the age groups, the youngest farmers, Q1, differed regarding the ‘Driven’ approach, scoring it as more preferable than the others. Differences depending on type of production emerged for ‘Demanding’. Looking at the mean scores, sheep and beef farmers scored it as less preferred than the others (mean 2.8 and 3.1, respectively), while poultry farmers were the only respondents to score it above 4 (mean 4.1).
Future demands on advisory services and their importance today
Advisory services may target different levels of the farming business, with the focus on production, managerial (organisation, market, tactics) and strategic issues (goals and vision for the future). For this question the answer options was not on a Likert scale and thus differed from the other questions, although the alternatives were still on a scale from 1 to 7. The advisors and farmers were asked how they expected demand for advisory services to change in 10 years’ time, i.e. if demand will decrease (lowest value, 1), increase (highest value, 7) or remain as it is today (intermediate value, 4).
Regarding advisory services with the focus on the ‘Production’ level, the two groups were almost in total consensus (t = 0.7), with both expecting a slight increase (Table 6). For both ‘Company management’ and ‘Strategy’, however, there were significant discrepancies between the two groups (t = 16.8 and 16.2, respectively) (Table 6). The advisors expected increased demand for advisory services within both ‘Company management’ and ‘Strategy’, while the farmers to a great extent expected demand to remain the same (Table 6).
On analysing the answers within the advisor group on future demand for advisory services, no differences based on gender, age or type of employment were seen. Within the farmer group, there were differences depending on age and type of production, but not on gender. Concerning future demand for ‘Company management’, the oldest farmer group, Q4, expected a decline, while the others did not. Q4 differed significantly from Q1 (p = 0.018) and Q2 (p = 0.006). Looking at the farmer group based on type of production, the beef farmers differed on all three levels, scoring lower than the farmers with other types of production.
Concerning the perceived importance of advisory services directed toward different levels of the farming business, regarding profitability and development of the farm, there were evident differences between the groups. When comparing the responses of advisors and farmers, there were significant discrepancies in the perceived importance for both profitability and development on all three levels. The discrepancies connected to the production level were smaller than the others, and the production level was considered to be the most important by both advisors and farmers (Table 7).
Regarding the perceived importance of advisory services connected to ‘Company management’ and ‘Strategy’, the advisors assessed it as more important than the farmers for both profitability and development. Once again, the farmers showed a more heterogeneous response pattern (Table 7). However, it is worth noting that a large number of farmers chose not to answer the questions about ‘Company management’ and ‘Strategy’ (Table 7).
On analysing the differences within the groups, the advisors showed no differences depending on gender, age or type of employment for either profitability or development at any level. Farmers did not show any differences concerning gender. When analysing the farmers based on age, however, the oldest farmer group, Q4, differed significantly from Q2 (p = 0.023) and Q3 (p = 0.002) on the perceived importance of advisory services at strategy level for farm development. Q4 scored this as not important (below 4), thus differing from all other age groups, which scored it as important. Analysing the farmers based on type of production showed differences regarding the effect of advisory services at company management level for profitability. The sheep farmers scored it as less important than all the other production types (mean 2.3), although beef and poultry farmers also perceived it as not important (mean 3.9). Dairy farmers, on the other hand, perceived it as more important than the other groups (mean 4.8).