butterflyDr Julie Ingram, Jane Mills and Dr Matt Reed conducted an evaluation of the Duchy Originals Future Farming (DOFF) Farmer Field Labs for the Soil Association in the autumn of 2014.

The DOFF programme supports a network of on-farm events called Field Labs, led by farmers and growers, where they can share their know-how, design field experiments and pinpoint practical challenges. These Field Labs are a format for knowledge exchange. They are designed to empower farmers as innovators, encouraging on-farm research with the support of researchers and facilitators.

The aims of this evaluation were to evaluate the impact of Field Labs according to the nature and extent of farmer learning and uptake of innovative ideas as a consequence of participating in Field Labs. The evaluation team conducted detailed semi-structured interviews and a telephone survey with Field Lab participants, and held a discussion forum for Field Lab facilitators. This data provided useful insights into how, and what, farmers learn as a result of attending Field Labs and the extent to which they take any lessons learned back to their own farms. The data was used to formulate recommendations for future development of the Field Labs initiative.

For more on the programme see:
http://www.soilassociation.org/fieldlabs

and

http://www.nature.com/news/agriculture-engage-farmers-in-research-1.15108