Understanding farm and rural life

John Lawrence’s message from April 16, 2018

When Extension Sociologist Paul Lasley sent the first Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll to Iowa farm operators in 1982, I already had quit farming to become a student at Iowa State, so I was ineligible to participate. But it’s just as well. Things have worked out fine for me and for the Farm Poll, which has become the longest-running survey of its kind in the nation. The overall objective is to understand how ongoing changes in Iowa’s agriculture and rural areas affect farmers and rural society as a whole. The Farm Poll provides a collective voice for farmers and reflects the diversity of Iowa agriculture. It also provides a method to track issues over time. Did you know?

  • Each year the poll surveys about 2,000 Iowa farmers on issues that are important to agricultural stakeholders. In 1982, those issues included agricultural price policy, quality of life, changes in farming, the future of agriculture and rural living.
  • The 2017 poll contained questions about weed and herbicide resistance management, soil health, use of small grains in extended rotations, the influence of agricultural stakeholders on farmers’ decisions, and decision making among multiple farm operators.
  • The Farm Poll is a panel survey, meaning the same farmers participate in multiple years before rotating off the list, so participants are somewhat older on average (66) than the general farmer population. New questions are asked each year, but many are repeated year after year to track change.
  • Paul Lasley and Extension Sociologist J. Arbuckle, current director of the Farm Poll, discuss the poll’s impact in this video.

ISU Extension and Outreach, the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Iowa Agricultural Statistics Service are all partners in the Farm Poll. Information from the poll helps stakeholders and decision makers at every level who are invested in the vitality of agriculture and rural society. To find out more about what we’ve learned from the poll over the years, you can check out the summary reports all the way back to 1982.

The Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll is another example of how we carry out our land-grant mission — not only taking research to farmers, but collecting information from them to help identify high priority needs facing farm families, and to help direct our research and extension programming across the state.

More notes

  • Have a great Extension and Outreach Week! Please share stories and photos of your celebrations and service projects. Remember to tag Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and any partners you may be working with on the event on your social media accounts. Reach out to your advancement specialist for assistance.
  • Now’s the time to get in on the next Extension and Outreach apparel group order from the Extension Store. Sign in to the store to see what is available and place your order by close of business on April 27.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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