Tuesday, December 18, 2007

December Update

Hello Everyone,

It has been awhile since our last post, mainly because we have had our minds wrapped around a lot of numbers last few months. After analyzing all the information we received from both the sector and student surveys, we are proud to announce that there is a large demand for this centre from both groups and it has been deemed feasible.

With the semester coming to an end there are two specific projects being undertaken. Firstly, the composition of an academic journal article is well on its way. This journal article will summarize our experiences and the approaches we took over the course of this study and the results we found. Secondly, a business plan is being developed as an initial step to help get this proposed centre idea up and running. The business plan will take into account information obtained through the questionnaires to develop a financial framework for how this centre will function. At this moment in time there is no set release date of this information, but if anyone has any questions we would be happy to help.

This study had a timeline and as we approach the end of December, our contract's will be coming to an end. We would like to thank all of those involved with the study. It was a pleasure meeting you and getting your feedback. Harriet, Nicole and myself would like to wish you all a happy holiday and look forward to seeing this centre up and running in the near future and benefiting all of your organizations and the industry in general.

Friday, October 5, 2007

October Update

Despite the lack of updates since the end of August, we've been keeping busy!

Sector Survey

All of our survey responses have been inputted and we have spent some time analyzing our data. We have also been working on a summary of our findings to include in a preliminary report that will be shared with the project coordinators. It is expected that they will be sharing this report with some select few agricultural professionals for feedback. So far, the results are looking very promising and a lot of our respondents have shown support for the centre and/or given us a lot of good suggestions!

Student Survey

In order to increase the number of respondents for our student survey, we have also been working on a PowerPoint presentation to sum up our entire research process (from May until now). This presentation will take place on October 11th from 11:30-1pm in an Agricultural Communications class at the University of Guelph. We will be including some preliminary findings from the sector interviews to help students better understand the concept of the proposed centre as well as the importance of their responses. Involvement from both the students and the sector will be necessary to establish the proposed communications centre, and it will not be deemed feasible if the sector shows enthusiasm for the concept but none of the students at the university will work at the centre! More importantly, we need more responses in order to get a representative view of the centre from students' perspective. The results will be equally disappointing if we are only getting responses from a small sample of students who are biased in any respect.

So... STUDENTS! PLEASE FILL OUT OUR SURVEY, WE WANT YOUR INPUT AND SUGGESTIONS!! E-mail us at acestudy@uoguelph.ca for a link to the online survey. It will take no more than 10-15 minutes of your time to complete! Responses are completely anonymous and confidential.

Hopefully, with our next update, we would know the feasibility of the centre and be well on our way to writing a business plan!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

As Summer Comes to an End...

The report writing begins!

We are now done most of our interviews with just a few more to go in these last two weeks of August. Thank you to anyone and everyone who has participated in a face to face interview. We have had some very helpful input from all those we have interviewed.

We have sent surveys out in the mail and have been receiving some of these surveys back. We appreciate those who have taken the time to fill the surveys out and send them back. If you have a survey that you have not yet completed or have completed and not sent back yet, please send it to us as soon as you can! We definitely want as much input into our project as possible. Thank you!

We recently had a discussion about our next steps. Once our interviews are finished and the surveys have come back in the mail we will begin analyzing the data. Some of the things we are looking to find is an overall feel of whether people would use the centre or not, what sort of demographics would be more apt to use the centre and what sort of things the centre should do. Then will come the writing of the report followed by many changes and edits. The end goal is to get the report published in an academic journal. Owen Roberts will be doing a lot of the editing and writing for the final report and working on the submission end of it.

Thanks once again to all of those who have helped us by participating in the survey!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Return from Ottawa

Well now that the long weekend is past us, we can finally get back to work. This week we have dedicated to southwestern Ontario organizations and can't wait to meet with them and get there feedback on our study.

Just to update our loyal followers on our Ottawa trip, which took place last week, everything went very smoothly and the feedback was great. As a last second decision, Nicole decided to stay back in Guelph to continue scheduling meetings, answering phone calls and completing the usually day-to-day tasks that would have accumulated if we had all gone. That left Harriet and myself to make the trek up to Ottawa, which we did on Monday afternoon. Our meetings began bright and early on Tuesday morning as we meet with the CFBMC, L'Union Cultivateurs des Franco-Ontariens, the Canadian Seed Growers Association and finally the CFIA. All meetings ran smoothly and we would like to thank all of those who participated in those meetings for their input as well as their kindness.

Wednesday saw us meet with the Canadian Pork Council, the Canadian Egg Marketing Agency, the Food Processors of Canada, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, and last but not least, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Once again we were very pleased to meet with all these organizations and appreciated their time, input and friendliness.

Finally, on Thursday morning, we woke up early, checked out of our hotel and made our way over to SeCan in Kanata. From there we started our journey home, making a planned stop in Peterborough to the Trent Centre for Community-Based Education. Here we talked with a Todd Barr about the structure and workings of the Trent Centre and saw how we could use similar methods as a template for a possible business structure for our centre. He was extremely informative and we would like to thank him for his time and hospitality.

Overall it was a great trip, with lots of positive feedback as well as constructive input. If there is anyone in the Ottawa region or more broadly put, in either the north and/or eastern Ontario that we missed or has not been contacted and would like to participate in this study, please email acecstudy@uoguelph.ca or call 519-824-4120 ext. 52667. Thanks again to all.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Interviews in Ottawa next week

Two weeks have passed and our interviews have been going very well! We have interviewed close to 50 organizations already and everyone has given us a lot of valuable feedback regarding the centre's concept. The organizations we have interviewed so far have spanned across Southern Ontario, with the majority of them being in the Guelph area. If the centre is deemed to be feasible at the end of our study, we will definitely be able to use a lot of everyone's comments to improve on our existing ideas. A very big thank you to those who have participated in our study thus far!

As the title says, we will be moving over to Ottawa next week. We have several interviews lined up in and around Ottawa already and plan to leave for Ottawa on Monday afternoon, returning on Thursday evening. We are very excited about speaking with the representatives in Ottawa-- if you are in the Ottawa area and can schedule a phone or in-person interview with us between July 31st - August 2nd, please e-mail us at acestudy@uoguelph.ca or call us at 519-824-4120, ext. 52667. Feel free to contact us for an interview or for more information even if you aren't in Ottawa or aren't available next week. Alternate arrangements can be made.

We are hoping to wrap up our interviews by the end of August and we will be working on a final report and business plan from September to December. Let us know if you are interested in getting a copy of the results of our study. If you have any other questions or concerns, you may also contact project co-ordinators Owen Roberts (owen@uoguelph.ca) or Lilian Schaer (lilian@uoguelph.ca).

We look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sector Survey Launched

Well the day has finally come. After months of "blood, sweat and tears" our surveys arrived yesterday. Nicole, Harriet and myself couldn't contain our excitement as we tore open the box to get a first glimpse at what has been in the works for a couple of months now. We were very impressed with the outcome and the great job Moffitt Print Craft Limited did.

So bright and early this morning, at 8:30am, we had our first official sector interview. The process had begun. After months of creating the feasibility questionnaire and approximately a week of contacting individuals from various organizations and scheduling interviews, we have experienced the first results from our hard work.

We are continuing to schedule and conduct interviews over the coming months and ask that if you are interested in having a questionnaire mailed to you that you email us at acestudy@uoguelph.ca or call us at (519) 824-4120 ext. 52667.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Student Survey launched!

We have some very exciting news, the student survey has officially been launched! Students within the OAC (Ontario Agricultural College) at the University of Guelph have been some of our first respondents and we appreciate their responses. We are working to get other individual colleges as well as the Central Students Association to send the survey link out. In the meantime, if you are a University of Guelph student, please email acestudy@uoguelph.ca for the link and give us your opinions on an agricultural communications education centre. Thank you in advance!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Read our story in the Farm Journalist!

Read about our study in the May 2007 Edition of the CFWF's Farm Journalist! Go to http://www.cfwf.ca and click on the e-newsletter in the top right.

If you would like to make sure you will be contacted for the survey, email us at acestudy@uoguelph.ca.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Feasibility Study…

Up to this point all of our mini-reports have been geared toward explaining concepts such as social communication, service-learning and extension. All of these are beneficial to the understanding of concepts the proposed centre may incorporate, but we have yet to define one very important aspect of our study. What is a feasibility study? For simplicity sake, a breakdown of this concept into three areas will be performed with those areas being: What is a feasibility study, what are the components of a feasibility study and finally, how to write a feasibility study report.

What is a Feasibility Study?

A feasibility study is an important component of the project/business development process, assisting in the evaluation of new business ventures. A feasibility study is mainly used to assess the economic viability of a proposed business, allowing planners to determine whether the project idea is realistic and if the benefits of the project outweigh the costs. One important aspect to consider when conducting a feasibility study is the people involved. It is important to involve independent researchers or consultants of the organization in order to ensure that results are unbiased.

What are the Components of a Feasibility Study?

Feasibility studies include many components. Whenever a feasibility study is conducted the researchers must examine four major areas of feasibility including market, technical, financial and organizational or managerial feasibility. Market feasibility examines the demand for the product in the marketplace. Technical feasibility looks at the both the physical space and equipment required to produce the product. Financial feasibility is one of the most important aspects of the study and must be examined carefully. Every potential cost and benefit must be analyzed to ensure that the project can be profitable on a long-term basis. Organizational or managerial feasibility determines the structure of the project and where people fit within it. These components are crucial to the study and must be analyzed thoroughly to ensure the results are accurate.


How to Write a Feasibility Study Report

One important aspect of a feasibility study is to be able to write a report at the end detailing your results and recommendations. Many people get caught up in believing that the report is the most important aspect of the project believing that a large report means a large effort. However the process is actually just as important as the final report when conducting the feasibility study and the size of the report is irrelevant as long as you get across the points in a clear and concise manner.

Seven key areas of focus on writing the report include: appearance (looks professional), table of contents (makes it easier to locate sections of information), an executive summary (provides a synopsis of the report that allows readers to gain an understanding prior to reading the report), sections (break information into sections for easier reading), quotations (adds credibility), other supporting elements (visuals such as charts, graphs and tables) and finally, appendices (provides an area for additional information to be read). These areas of a report help the readers by providing a clearer, more appealing and professional structure of the information.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Keeping Busy!

A lot has been going on in the past week, so it’s time for an update!

Last week, we met with Cheryl Rose, who is the Executive Director of the Canadian Association for Community Service-Learning. We explained our project and the proposed centre’s vision, and she was very supportive of the idea. She gave us a lot of helpful information on service-learning as well as tips on how to approach the agricultural sector in our interviews.

Yesterday, we went to a Social Media Conference at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters, in Burlington. We listened to two speakers:

- Ian Ketcheson (Acting Communications Manager, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada) discussed how blogs, youtube, wikis, and podcasts are changing government communications

- Dr. Alex Bielak (Director, Science and Technology Liaison, Environment Canada) talked about the importance of effective communication in science

We learned a lot about not only how we are being affected by technology, but different aspects of effective communication. This will come in handy when conducting interviews later this summer!

On that note, our survey for the agricultural sector is still in the works, but our student survey has officially been submitted to the ethics board! We should receive ethics clearance within 2 weeks, so we will begin distributing the survey at that point.

Until then, let's cross our fingers and hope the weather stays nice!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

After the long weekend update!

After a great Victoria Day weekend we're back in the Office of Research at the University of Guelph working on our surveys. Owen went through the rough draft of our student survey on friday and gave us some very helpful advice and suggestions on what to change, what to take out and what to keep in order to improve our survey. We are working on the student survey today as well as the sector survey fixing up the problems Owen pointed out and changing parts of the industry survey to avoid the same problems.

During the rest of the week we will continue to revise and update our surveys as well as the literature review for our final report. Our aim is to have the first draft literature review pretty well wrapped up by the end of the week as well as have our student survey go through a second look with Owen. The surveys will not be going out as early as we (the students) had thought however this won't be a problem as we are aiming to have the survey as perfect as possible! We'll have a link to the survey soon!

Monday, May 14, 2007

"Extension" in Ontario and Survey Progress

Contributing more than $25 billion a year to the provincial economy, Agriculture is Canada’s third largest industry. Yet, in Ontario, a gap between this essential industry and the consumer base has formed, resulting in constant difficulties in the agricultural sector.

Agricultural extension, as defined by wikipedia, is “the application of scientific research and new knowledge to agricultural practices through farmer education.” Further dissected, extension, on its own, is the passing of knowledge from educational institutes to users of the information.


According to the Canadian Society of Extensions, extension is a system of non-formal education. As such, it is a field of professional education aimed at:
  • teaching people, in their own context and life situations, how to identify and assess their own needs and problems;
  • helping them acquire the knowledge and skills required to cope effectively with those needs and problems.
  • inspiring them to action.


The government phased out agricultural extension from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food in the 1990s, and extension officers have disappeared as a result. Although the agri-food sector is one of the most important in Ontario, government support and agricultural education/extension initiatives are lacking, if not non-existent, which results in a much larger challenge of increasing awareness.

Presently, there are a small number of extension divisions and programs in universities throughout Canada. A need for agricultural extension, especially in Ontario, still exists. With reference to the proposed Agricultural Communications Education Centre, it is our intent that extension practices be integrated and implemented to better service the industry, students and the users of the knowledge.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Search for Similar Initiatives; News Story

We have spent the last couple of days searching for any initiatives that are similar to the proposed Centre. We have found that while there are institutions throughout Canada and the United States that offer agricultural communications or journalism programs, the only opportunities that they have for hands-on learning are through internships or co-op programs. The only thing we have found that can compare to the proposed Centre is the Brock Center of Agricultural Communication at the California Polytechnic State University. Similar to the vision for the Centre, the Brock Center connects students with an interest in communications to the agricultural industry, giving journalism students a better understanding of agriculture, and agriculture students a more unbiased approach to their industry.

Since there has been a lack in any similar agricultural communications education centres, our surveys and interviews of industry representatives throughout the summer will focus on whether there is a need for or interest in such a centre.

In other exciting news, we will be submitting a news story of this feasibility study for the next issue of the Farm Journalist, the national newsletter of the Canadian Farm Writers' Federation... so keep an eye out for it!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

ECFWA Annual General Meeting in London

Yesterday we went to London with the SPARK writers, Kim, Owen and Lilian to the AGM of the Eastern Canada Farm Writers Association.
The meeting went smoothly with reports and discussion on upcoming and past events.
This year the Canadian Farm Writers Federation will be holding it's annual conference in Belleville, a request for volunteers was put forward to help host this national event. The conference will run from September 27th to 30th. http://www.cfwf.ca/
In 2011 the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists will be holding their annual congress in Guelph. Many details are yet to be established, however a tentative date of September 14th to 18th has been set. http://www.ifaj.org/
After lunch sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario and Pioneer, two guest speakers presented on interesting topics that provided us with some insight into new initiatives as well as information on how more urban areas view their food.
Sue-Ann Staff of the Niagara Vintners Inc. is the wine maker for an exciting new initiative. She presented to us the Story of the 20 bees, how she and 19 grape growers have come together to create a new company. They have chosen to go with a less traditional label, (bright yellow!) in order to grab the consumer's attention and all reports show that this will be a successful venture. They are committed to promoting 100% Ontario made wines and to being environmentally conscious. http://www.20bees.com/
Lastly, Wayne Roberts of the Toronto Food Policy Council spoke with us about where he believes Toronto's food demands are headed. He believes that consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the "authenticity" of their food. Once reliable, convenient sources of food are established, along with a stable price the majority of consumers will be looking to meet with and know the person who grows their food. http://www.toronto.ca/health/tfpc_index.htm

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

What is Social Communication?

We are looking to define social communication because this concept will help us gain a stronger understanding of what communication techniques are possible and what can be offered through the proposed Agricultural Communication Education Centre. With that said, what is social communications? Social Communications is a field of study that primarily explores the ways information can be perceived, transmitted and understood, and the impact those ways will have on society. Thus, the study of social communication is more politically and socially involved than the study of communication.

Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_communication

Over time we have seen great leaps and bounds in social communication. With the immergence of technology, the forms of communication have grown and continue to grow. When looking at the big picture we can conclude that there are six major forms of communication with four being technology-based. These include face-to-face communication and written communication (letters) as the non-technology-based as well as telephone, radio, television and internet being the technology-based forms. These forms of communication provide a foundation for this discussion. As we have seen, technology is continually expanded and developing. As an example we have seen the transition from being able to simply communicate verbally on the phone to being able to text message, send emails and documents and even watch videos.

Another example of social communications would be our blog, which is used to keep readers up-to-date on the progress of our feasibility study. In turn, our readers are able to provide us with feedback, which makes this form of communication very beneficial to all parties.

What is Service-Learning?

There are many different definitions of service-learning, but in essence, it is ‘learning by doing.’ According to the National Service Learning Clearinghouse, service-learning merges academic education with community service, in which both the provider and recipient gain valuable knowledge and expertise. Participants are encouraged to reflect on their experiences within these structured opportunities and to identify the connections between classroom knowledge and hands-on activities. Please click here for more information.

Further exploring this concept, three common attributes of service-learning are active learning, reciprocity and reflection. The characteristics of effective service-learning are (click here for the original site):
  • Students learn and develop through active participation in organized service that is conducted in and meets the needs of the community; and is a coordinated effort between the community and an institution of higher education.
  • The learning experience includes structured time for the students and community participants to reflect on and analyze the service experience.
  • The service activity must be connected to classroom learning and theory, and community service placements must be connected to course objectives and learning outcomes.
Many forms of service-based learning already exist. However, there are distinctions among various service and learning combinations, including volunteerism, internships and service-learning. The article describing these distinctions can be accessed here.

The proposed Agricultural Communications Education Centre would be a model of a service-learning initiative. For example, an organization could come to the Centre requiring a website designed, and capable students would be able complete the project by both using and building on their existing abilities.

Do you have any experience with service-learning? If yes, how has this experience influenced your education?

Monday, April 30, 2007

April 30th, 1st Day of Work!

Today was our first day up in the Office of Research at the University of Guelph. Geoff, Harriet and I all got to know each other a little better and met some of the SPARK writers as well. Kim gave us a quick tour of the office, where the supplies are kept and where people sit. Then we headed for the library to do some research on the Agricultural Adaptation Council, to find out where our funding came from and why we received it. We also had a look around for other Ag Communications Education Centres and similar programs. We had a bite to eat then headed back to the Office of Research where Lilian and Owen gave us a better overall idea about the project and some ideas on where to go with it. Our last task for the day was setting up this Blog as well as a facebook group to get some feedback from other students on what they think of creating an Agricultural Communications Education Centre. The facebook group is called Agricultural Communications Education Centre Study so pleasejoin! We look forward to hearing anyone's ideas feel free to post comments!!