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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Network-smart extension could catalyze social learning

  • Author(s): Hoffman, Matthew
  • Lubell, Mark
  • Hillis, Vicken
  • et al.

Social learning, learning from others, has value in extending knowledge about farm management through networks of growers. Exactly how much value depends on the structure of the networks. We employed social network analysis to study knowledge networks and social learning in three American Viticulture Areas in California: Central Coast, Lodi and Napa Valley. In a survey, growers confirmed that experiential and social learning are more useful for accessing information about farm management than formal learning. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension (UCCE) was found to be well positioned to access and spread knowledge through the grower networks but a bottleneck exists — many knowledge-sharing relationships and relatively few staff. We also found that grower participation in traditional outreach activities, e.g., meetings and demonstrations, is a strong predictor of their number of knowledge-sharing relationships, so UCCE and other agricultural support organizations have an important role to play in strengthening networks. Several network-smart extension strategies might help alleviate the bottleneck and rewire networks to more efficiently connect those with questions to those with solutions.

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