Graham Centre PhD graduate Dr Lauren Howard hopes her research will lead to more support for long-term strategic decision making on mixed farms.
Dr Howard was awarded her PhD during a ceremony on Monday 10 December for research examining the complex nature of extension services available to farmers.
“Twenty years ago it was mostly the state departments of agriculture providing extension services to farmers,” Dr Howard said.
“Today those services have changed and there are a lot more stakeholders who provide extension services, including private providers.
“There’s also different relationships and partnerships between providers such as research and development corporations.
“Farm decision making is complex, particularly in mixed farming situations when different enterprises influence one another. I found that the extension environment makes this decision making even more difficult.”
Dr Howard’s research as part of the Future Farming Cooperative Research Centre also found few farmers are seeking out strategic planning advice.
“While there are extension providers who provide day-to-day support, for example what herbicide to spray, or advice on annual decisions such as crop rotations, there are not many advisors who provide strategic support,” Dr Howard said.
“One of my recommendations is to provide more support to the service providers so that they are better equipped to provide strategic decision making support to farmers.
“My research also examined the sustainability of mixed farming, finding that being resilient and able to adapt to change is really important and that strategic decision making helps farmers to be in a position to adapt their business.”
Dr Howard completed her PhD while juggling the demand of being part of a small family business and raising four children.