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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A study of the roles of selected agricultural extension agents in British Columbia Job, Claude Hollis


This thesis is a study of the roles of certain agricultural extension agents in British Columbia, as viewed by the agents themselves. An attempt is made to identify the different activities the agents perform and to enquire into how well the agents are adapting themselves to the changing definitions of extension work. The data for the study is based on responses given to a questionnaire by three types of agents,—District Agriculturists, District Horticulturists and Other Agents who have been on the staff of the British Columbia Extension Service for two or more years. The three types of agents are in general agreement with respect to the functions of the Extension Service on which most time and effort have been devoted in the past but differed as to the relative importance of the different functions. The indication is however, that the Extension service concentrates on work of a service nature such as providing information on specific farm practices and teaching the underlying principles of farming, rather than on community development processes. Distinct differences appear in the roles of each type of agent as defined by the activities they perform. Most of them identify 'consultant', 'source of information and ideas' and 'student' the three most important out of a total of nine types of activities. However, District Agriculturists perform a wider range of activities than do the other two types of agents. The majority of each type of agent indicates that they do not feel very proficient in performing any one role. Though in general, the roles which they consider important form a pattern which is similar to the ones they actually perform, it appears that they are least qualified to perform the roles which they consider to be important. This is particularly so among District Agriculturists. Of the three agent groups, District Horticulturists achieve the highest level of role fulfillment and least amount of role stress, with Other Agents next and District Agriculturists last. This may be due to the wider area of responsibility of the District Agriculturists compared to the other two groups. The evidence suggests that the agents do not conform to the 'changing definition of extension work' since the roles which rank high both in importance and performance, are those with major emphasis on work of a service nature and on agricultural production. 'The opportunity to help other people', 'personal contact' with people and 'freedom in planning and doing my work' appear to be the strong motivating forces in extension work. For these agents 'the lack of a well defined program' is chief among the less desirable aspects of the job. In general, the agents have favourable opinions of the prestige of their positions and both status consciousness and satisfaction in the job are also high. The agents perceive of their alter groups as having differential expectations with respect to the roles the agents should perform; each type of agent views these expectations in line with their own self image of the job, and the vested interests of each group. District Agriculturists are most responsive to their local clientele rather than to those people above them. Other Agents show a greater orientation to their directors than to the farmers'(local interests). District Horticulturists seem to be influenced by their local clientele and their directors to an equal extent. The agents have significant relationships with farm organizations, while non-farm organizations and university extension play very minor roles in their work. 'Inadequate communications' prevents the agents from fulfilling the expectations of their alter groups, and this suggests that the Extension Service is not a well integrated social system. Groups other than the agents themselves participate very little in the determination of the extension program. Though, the agents feel that the extension program in the main should be their responsibility; they indicate a desire for more participation by other groups. District Agriculturists want to make greater use of program planning committees, District Horticulturists stress individual farmers, while Other Agents want to see their directors be more involved. It appears that the agents try to use their time and resources more efficiently by concentrating their attention on farmers with higher incomes as they are in a better position to follow the extension recommendations. Thus, there is a positive relationship between the amount of time the agents devote to farmers and the income level of the farmers.

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