The Ramones Farmers Survey was planned in order to discover what the clients of advisors find the most needed advisory services and what competences of the advisors they evaluate important. The project partners developed a questionnaire (consisting of 16 questions) and made it available in the six languages of the project partners in an online form. Through their network among farmers who utilize advisors, the partners disseminated the questionnaire. The survey ran between December 2020 and February 2021. 214 farmers responded to the questionnaire during this period.
Characteristics of the respondents
About half of the respondents farm on an area less than 20 hectares, while 21 percent have more than 100 hectares (6 percent have more than 500 hectares). The survey reached different types of clients of advisory service providers.
Most farmers in this sample cultivate arable crops (28%), perennial crops (20%), mixed crops (13%), vegetable crops (11%), and sustained animal production (8%).
Generally, respondents have been farming for an average of 19 years (ranging from 1 to 62 years, respondents from Croatia and Slovakia have slightly less experience (15 years)) and have used advisory services for an average of 10 years (ranging from 0 to 60 years, the highest average is in Slovakia with 12 years). Answering the question “Has your consultant been the same person?”, 72 percent of respondents stated yes, and 6 percent stated they are in contact with more advisors (because of different areas of expertise needed), but these advisors have not changed in a long time.
The main areas and regularity of assistance from the advisors
During the survey, farmers were asked the main areas where they expect their advisors to provide support. Nearly half of the respondents indicated that innovative technologies (49%), problem-solving (45%), regular administrative (44%) and regular production-related (44%) advice are the most anticipated, while market-related support are required by only 17% of the farmers in the sample.
The regularity of different advisory services nuances this image. Agriculture-related administration (3,1 on a scale of four) is the most frequent service, closely followed by farm data management (2,74) and services associated with production and risk management. One-third of the farmers never need any help with the other four items (bookkeeping, legal issues, business management, market). Country differences are also present in this regard.
The importance of advisor’s characteristics
Most answer options to the question „how important for you are the following properties of your advisor’s support” got an average well above three (more important) on a scale of four. Service reliability with professionalism and technical preparedness are the most important properties. In addition to confidentiality and ethics, use of communication methods and creativity were rated important, while in the opinion of the farmers, their advisor’s personal style is not as important as all the others (nevertheless, the average of this item (2,88) also indicates that this aspect is not irrelevant).
There are no major differences between the respondents in the Ramones countries. The most needed traits are professionality and reliability, punctual service, while personal style is not that important. Farming experience, farm size, and experience with the advisory service did not affect the perception of the most important attributes of the advisors.
Quantification of the advisor’s performance
Whether (and how) the farmers can measure their advisor's performance, how is it possible to relate the value of the support to practical means, for instance, is an important question. Most easily quantifiable of the ten areas of possible advisory support are administration, claims for subsidies, and applying for tenders (57, 55, and 46 percent of the respondents feel that these areas are easily quantifiable). Support related to production technology improvements can be difficult to quantify, but it seems also manageable. However, in terms of other support, the “cannot quantify” option was chosen by a clear majority.
If the country results show (1 means cannot quantify and 3 means easy to quantify in average on the spider chart below) that while the basic perception of measurability of different advisory service areas are the same, there are large discrepancies between the countries, for example, from the point of view of the Hungarian farmers in the sample, the advisory support related to subsidies and administrative support is easily quantifiable, they are much more sceptical about the measurability of any other activities.