Date of Award

5-2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications

Major Professor

Joseph L. Donaldson

Committee Members

Gina M. Pighetti, Carrie A. Stevens

Abstract

Potentially due to a lack of trust and limited communication between farmers and consumers, there is an issue of consumer misinformation about the dairy industry. Consumer perception is negatively impacting the industry and hurting dairy farmers across the country. Agritourism and dairy farm visits have had limited study. From the standpoint of consumer perception, today’s college students make up an intriguing study population. This generation, Generation Z, is in the process of developing their buying behaviors; they will eventually make up a significant portion of consumers with a great deal of buying power (Priporas, Stylos & Fotiadis, 2017). The purpose of this study was to analyze college students’ perceptions of the dairy industry before and after visiting an operating dairy farm to see if their perceptions changed, if at all. The objectives for the study include a comparison of participants’ perceptions of herd health, dairy regulations, and farm practices prior to and after the farm visit. The researcher also sought to evaluate participants’ satisfaction with the dairy farm visit. An instrument was created to align with prior research and the study objectives. The instrument was validated by an expert panel and found to be reliable through pilot testing. A convenience sample of participants (N=8) was recruited from the History of Food course at the University of Tennessee. Participants completed a pretest before the dairy farm visit and a posttest afterwards. This dairy farm visit included a tour, lecture, and opportunities to ask dairy farmers questions. The results from comparing the pretest/posttest perceptions suggest that the dairy farm visits had a positive impact on the participants’ perceptions of the dairy industry. Almost 90% of the participants agreed when asked if: this dairy visit motivated them to buy more dairy products, they were taught something new on the visit, and the visit made them perceive the dairy industry more positively. Recommendations include the need to provide consumers with dairy farm visits that are scheduled at more convenient times and that include an intentional educational experience.

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