Growing Trust to Better Serve Vegetable Growers

The ability to partner with organizations outside Iowa State provides Ajay Nair and the horticulture team with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach an avenue to reach vegetable growers across Iowa.

Working with organizations like the Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (IFVGA) and Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI), allows ISU Extension and Outreach horticulture specialists to provide research-based information to a larger audience.

“The IFVGA and PFI have embraced us and our research and help a great deal by disseminating our information,” says Nair, an associate professor of horticulture and extension vegetable production specialist. “Many of the field days and workshops we hold are done in partnership with one or both of those organizations.”

One of the biggest advantages to these partnerships is that it allows Iowa State researchers to keep their ears to the ground so they are familiar with issues growers are facing in their fields.

“We get to know growers’ needs on a real-time basis,” Nair says. “They provide great input into areas where there is additional research or extension programming needed. That input helps keep us grounded in the reality of the field.”

They have also worked hard to gain the trust of Iowa growers.

“We have a strong network of farmers that are very open about what will help them and what won’t,” says Liz Kolbe, horticulture and habitat programs manager with Practical Farmers of Iowa. “Ajay is often requested as a speaker from Iowa State because farmers feel that he listens to them and addresses their questions in his research.”

Extension staff also present at conferences across the state, providing information to growers in a classroom setting. The presentations help growers get more comfortable with Iowa State specialists, which helps them become more receptive to the information presented.

“When growers see that Iowa State isn’t there to just tell, direct and give instructions, they see that we are working with organizations across the state for the betterment of the industry as a whole,” says Nair. “That allows them to see us as partners instead of just a top-down disseminator of information.”