April 1995 // Volume 33 // Number 2 // Research in Brief // 2RIB3

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Targeted Workshops Improve Marketing Knowledge and Skills

Workshops improve marketing knowledge and skills when they target producers having similar expertise. This article describes the characteristics of workshop participants and explains the methods used to identify changes in producer marketing knowledge, attitudes, skills, and practices. Results are based on inventories completed during the workshop and a follow-up survey. Results indicated that the workshops were effective, and that a refresher workshop may be needed to make producers comfortable with some marketing techniques.

George Flaskerud
Extension Crops Economist
Associate Professor
Department of Agricultural Economics
North Dakota State University
Fargo, North Dakota
Internet address: gflasker@ndsuext.nodak.edu

Workshops are effective when they target producers having similar expertise. At a recent intermediate level marketing workshop, producers were targeted who had achieved proficiency in the fundamentals of marketing, and who desired to learn advanced marketing techniques in a setting where they could discuss marketing with other producers of similar expertise. Prior attendance at a beginning level marketing workshop presented by Extension was encouraged as a prerequisite.

According to inventories completed during the intermediate level workshop and a follow-up survey, participants improved their marketing knowledge and changed their marketing behavior. In comments, participants indicated that they learned considerably more in this workshop than in other workshops where no prerequisite was stipulated.

A majority of the 201 producers who attended one of the 12 two-day workshops presented in 1992 and 1993 were well educated, financially secure, and at about the mid-point of their farming career according to a profile that was developed from a questionnaire completed during the workshop (Table 1).

Table 1
Characteristics of Workshop Participants in an
Intermediate Level Marketing Workshop in 1992-1993
(n = 201)
Item Amount
Age 30-44 57%
College Degree 42%
Previous Marketing Workshop 58%
Farming Experience 17 years
Crop Acres Operated 2211 acres
Storage 82077 bushels
Marketing Plan Used 41%
ncome Primarily From Crops 71%
Gross Farm Income
Above $100,000 71%
Above $250,000 28%
Above $500,000 11%
Off-Farm Family Income
Above $10,000 56%
Above $20,000 39%
Above $30,000 25%
Above $250,000 74%
Above $500,000 50%
Above $1,000,000 21%
Below $100,000 42%
Below $250,000 75%
Below $500,000 92%

Most participants operated crop farms large enough to take advantage of size economies, and many followed a marketing plan. The profile fit expectations about potential participants. Consequently, the workshop was appropriately planned.

Risk management, marketing plans, basis, storage returns, futures, and options were reviewed during the first one-fourth of the workshop. Contracts, synthetic options, fences, and a multi-year marketing strategy were discussed in the second and third quarters. A case study for practicing newly learned skills was featured during the last one-fourth of the workshop. Participants were encouraged to discuss exercises and case study situations in groups of three or four, but to make independent decisions. The case study (a modification of one by W.I. Tierney and R.N. Wisner, 1991) was followed by a discussion of successes, failures, and reasons for decisions.

Participants completed inventories to determine their marketing knowledge at the beginning and end of the workshops. The inventories were developed from publications by C. O'Connor and K. Anderson (1989), Chicago Board of Trade (1989), and Minneapolis Grain Exchange (1991).

The t-test was used to verify that participants in the workshops improved their marketing knowledge. For each subject area, the null hypothesis for the test was that participants did not improve their understanding of marketing concepts. A significant t-value indicates, to the contrary, that participants did improve their level of understanding as a result of the workshop (Steel & Torrie, 1960; Turner & Travnichek, 1992). Results of the inventories and 10 t-tests are shown in Tables 2 and 3.

The results indicated that participants significantly improved their knowledge of marketing concepts during the workshops: learning of the concepts was significant at the .01 level in all but one subject area, which was significant at the .05 level (Table 2).

Table 2
Comprehension of Marketing Topics by Participants
According to Inventories Completed During an
Intermediate Level Marketing Workshop in 1992-93
(n = 201)
Item Preworkshop Postworkshop
Test Scores (29 Questions) 71% 82%**
Rating (High=5)
Historical Basis 2.9 3.8**
Storage Return 3.0 3.8**
Hedging With Futures 2.8 3.5**
Hedging With Options 2.7 3.6**
Cash Forward Contract 3.8 4.1**
Basis Fixed Contract 2.5 3.2**
Delayed Price Contract 3.1 3.3*
Minimum Price Contract 2.2 3.0**
Hedged-to-Arrive Contract 1.7 2.6**
** Indicates a significant change at the .01 level.
* Indicates a significant change at the .05 level.

Participants also demonstrated that they plan to apply their newly learned skills: most indicated by the end of the session, that they planned to partly replace traditional techniques with more advanced ones such as futures or option hedges (Table 3).

Table 3
Percentage of Participants Planning to Use Various
Marketing Techniques to Sell Their Hard Red Spring
Wheat Crop the Following Year According to Inventories
Completed During an Intermediate Level Marketing
Workshop in 1992-1993 (n = 201)
Technique Preworkshop Postworkshop
Percent of Participants
Cash Sale 90 78
Cash Forward Contract 65 68
Futures Hedge 36 45
Options Hedge 52 70
Minimum Price Contract 21 4
Delayed Price Contract 30 12
Basis Fixed Contract 21 14

Producers generally followed through with their plans according to a follow-up survey conducted in 1994 (Table 4). However, the changes that 45 respondents actually made in marketing behavior were considerably smaller than planned. For example, the use of options after attending the workshop increased to 51% (Table 4) instead of the 70% planned (Table 3), mainly because they felt uncomfortable with the technique.

Table 4
Techniques Used to Sell Hard Red Spring Wheat Before
and After Attending an Intermediate Level Marketing
Workshop in 1992-93 and Reasons for Not Using
Techniques Afterwards, According to a Following-up
Survey of Participants in 1994 (n = 45)
Percent of Survey Responses
Marketing Plan 27 78 7 4 4 
Storage 93 84 2    4
Cash Sale 96 93 2   
Cash Forward Contract 64 67 16 4 11 
Futures Hedge 22 24 24 13 36 7
Options Hedge 33 51 13 13 22 9
Minimum Price Contract 9 18 29 18 18 9
Delayed Price Contract 31 24 27 16 22 9
Basis Fixed Contract 2 9 36 29 16 7
(Basis Open) Contract
2 7 36 29 16 9
*Reasons for not using a particular technique:
A. Chose not to use the technique.
B. Lacked understanding about the technique.
C. Uncomfortable about using the technique.
D. Preferred using an elevator contract instead of
futures or options.

In conclusion, participants learned marketing concepts and changed marketing attitudes in the targeted workshops. This was demonstrated in inventories and confirmed in a follow-up survey. A refresher workshop may be needed to make producers comfortable with some marketing techniques. The established profile of the targeted group will be useful for designing the refresher and other workshops.


Chicago Board of Trade. (1989). Marketing clubs: A hands-on approach to marketing. Chicago: Author.

Minneapolis Grain Exchange. (1991). The power of options. Minneapolis, MN: Author.

O'Connor, C., & Anderson, K. (1989). Business management in agriculture (Vol. III). St. Paul, MN: Farm Credit Bank of St. Paul.

Steel, R. G., & Torrie, J. H. (1960). Principles and procedures of statistics. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Tierney, W. I., & Wisner, R. N. (1991, December). Case study I. Paper presented at Farming with Reduced Government Payments workshop, Kansas City, MO.

Turner, J., & Travnichek, R. J. (1992). Measuring the success of teacher training. Journal of Extension, XXX(Winter), 38.