Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Swortzel, Kirk A.

Committee Member

Peterson, Donna J.

Committee Member

Denny, Marina D.

Committee Member

Seal, Susan D.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Agricultural Science (Agricultural and Extension Education)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


School of Human Sciences


The purpose of this study was to determine perception and training needs of Mississippi State University Extension agents in organic agriculture. The study followed the Borich Needs Assessment Model. Data were collected via Qualtrics. The population of the study was 154 Mississippi State University Extension agents with 77 Extension agents responding to the questionnaire. Most agents were 40 to 49 years old with an almost equal percentage being male and female. The majority of agents (75.3%) had master’s degree. More than one third of the agents indicated the level of demand towards raising livestock organically had stayed the same. Also, approximately 40% of agents indicated the level of demand towards growing row crops had stayed the same. However, more than one half of agents indicated the level of demand towards growing produce organically had increased. The level of confidence of Mississippi State University Extension agents in conducting activities in organic agriculture was ranged from M = 2.50 to M = 3.56 on five-point scale. The mean of the Extension agents’ perception towards organic agriculture ranged from M = 2.52 to M = 3.98 on five-point scale. The five organic agriculture topics that had the highest mean weighted discrepancy score (MWD) were “Appropriate amounts of bioertilizers to use in organic agriculture”, “Appropriate amounts of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in organic agriculture”, “Organic certification”, “Organic agriculture standards”, and “Types of bioertilizers used in organic agriculture”. Regarding the relationship between selected demographic characteristics and training needs, significant differences existed among age groups in only three topics with significant differences among gender found in 10 topics. Furthermore, significant differences were found between agents’ experiences groups in one topic. Moreover, significant differences among the highest level of education groups were found in 4 topics. Significant differences among the number of trainings groups were found in only one topic. Since more than one-half of Extension agents had no trainings regarding organic agriculture and Extension agents need high training in approximately one-half of the 29 organic agriculture topics, Mississippi State University Extension needs to provide more training and programming in organic agriculture via formal and/or nonormal education.



Training needs