Flashback 1990

From: What Influences Farmers’ Computer Use?
Journal of Extension, Spring 1990


R. Keith Iddings, Research Assistant, Department of Continuing and Vocational Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Jerold W. Apps, Professor, Department of Continuing and Vocational Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Computers have hit agriculture. A 1987 Successful Farming survey found that 21 percent of the farmers either owned, leased or shared a computer. Another 24 percent planned to buy a computer within the next three years. If only half of those who said they planned to buy a computer actually followed through, then about a third of all farmers would now have access to a computer. We can imagine beautifully organized databases filled with data on cattle and crops. We can envision spreadsheets distilling mountains of figures into easily usable information. Long-range plans, market reports and electronic mail march across the farm video displays in our minds.

But do the dreams in our heads match reality? You may have already guessed the answer. A hog farmer admits, “I bought a computer about four years ago. Now the kids just use it for their homework.” “We bought ours about a year ago,” says a grain farmer, “but I’m afraid I haven’t really got the hang of it yet.” The manager of a large, diversified farm admits unabashedly, “I still don’t trust the thing.” And so he keeps books manually.

What determines how much a farmer will actually use his/her computer after purchase? In an ongoing study supported by a Hatch grant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we’ve been trying to find out. To date, our research has been preliminary and exploratory. During the past several months, we have interviewed and spent time with 18 farmers in south central Wisconsin and northeast Kansas. Of the farmers contacted, 11 owned computers and seven didn’t.

Read more here.

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