This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Maintaining Relevance in Agricultural Extension Programming Using Classical Extension Methods: A Social Network Analysis of the Future of Farming Project




Robinette, McKayla R.

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology

Restriction Status


Restriction Type

Auburn University Users

Date Available



Rural Sociology is credited with pioneering social network analysis (SNA) to study the connections between individuals. However, the use of SNA methods has been eclipsed by urban community research and continuations of the original method. This thesis applies traditional SNA to a modern agricultural extension program that is part of a project titled The Future of Farming. The research and extension team that leads the project is working to establish a network of row-crop farmers in Alabama who are willing to engage in peer-to-peer knowledge exchange about climate-smart technologies. Structured similar to classic Gemeinschaft networks, researchers facilitated regional engagement meetings (n = 11), that were mapped to examine the personal ties of farmers across the state. Semi-structured, face-to-face, interviews (n = 41) were sampled to complement the regional engagement meetings by allowing the individual farmers to provide a qualitative account of their ties to other members of the project. The meetings and interviews were video recorded, transcribed, and coded in NVivo. SNA was conducted in R using two measures: scores that represented attendees’ degree of participation during the meetings, and the count of participants’ name-drops (n = 300) during the meetings and their subsequent interviews. Results highlight researcher influence in farmer connectivity, the value of participatory approaches in agricultural extension, and the farmers’ desires to engage with each other. This study serves to further revive SNA within rural sociology and further strengthen applied research methods.