Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Community Development and Applied Economics

First Advisor

David . Conner

Second Advisor

Cheryl . Morse



Extension agricultural business programs have provided enhanced individualized services to Vermont’s agricultural producers by using a variety of external funding sources combined with base departmental funds. These farm business programs are uniquely positioned to deliver one-on-one outreach education and information that not only has a direct benefit to private farm business owners but indirectly serves the public good by enhancing farm business viability. Meanwhile, there is an ongoing cultural shift among Extension professionals and farm owners who acknowledge that Extension programs cannot be sustained at low or no cost to participants. Funding for Extension programming has been declining for several years. Traditional funding sources, such as university base funding and state legislature appropriations, have been significantly reduced, and as a result, faculty positions in Extension nationwide have been reduced or eliminated altogether. New ways to support Extension programming must be developed in order to continue to deliver high quality business outreach education to Vermont agricultural producers. This research addresses this need in the following two ways. First, Farm Viability (now Agricultural Business) program participants were surveyed to gauge their understanding of declining funding from traditional sources to determine whether or not a fee-based structure for future programming is acceptable them. Next, a reflective essay proposes solutions for supplementing funding for Extension programming with a fee-for-service model for advanced and extended one-on-one programming. Survey results showed that those respondents likely to engage in programming beyond the initial 2-year period were willing to pay for extended services at a rate higher than the original application fee. Of those who were willing to pay for future services, 80% of respondents said that they would use a plan that included 1-3 visits at a cost of $250 - $499. The reflective essay defines program areas in need of funding enhancement, such as using facilitated management teams, succession planning and grant application assistance. The essay discusses programming opportunities that exist to serve at least some past program participants with additional one-on-one services, thereby sharing the increasing financial burden experienced by Extension educators in the presence of shrinking internal capacity to fund this type of outreach education. This research also raises awareness in areas of program costs, dwindling funding sources, and how participants can help share the financial burden. Important points for farmers weighing the merits of paying for program participation and future programing opportunities are discussed. These results can guide the efforts of program administrators seeking to improve the cost-effectiveness of Extension outreach education in Vermont agriculture.



Number of Pages

72 p.