Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Agricultural Economics


In the present study data from a personal interview survey of 100 farm supply dealers in 15 Tennessee counties were analyzed. Systematic "judgment" sampling was used to select the counties in which all available dealers were interviewed. The objectives of the study were: (1) to determine the social and business characteristics of farm supply dealers, (2) to determine the communication patterns between the farm dealers and their farmer-customers, and (3) to determine the sources of information and advice used by the farm dealers.

Farm supply dealers refer to those managing dealerships that sell feel, seed, chemicals, machinery, and/or farm related products. There were 42 machinery dealers, 16 co-op managers, 15 feed mill operators, 11 chemical dealers, 9 hardware dealers and 7 miscellaneous dealers.

The dealers averaged 46.4 years of age and had 13.3 years of education. They exhibited a relatively high level of living and earned approximately $13,600 a year. Their background was strongly influenced by agriculture. For instance, 85 percent were reared on a farm, 49 percent had 4-H training and 56 percent studied vocational agriculture in high school. Confirming this role of agriculture was the fact that the major occupation of 82 percent of the dealers' fathers was either farming or agribusiness. Sixty-seven percent of the dealers owned or operated a farm.

Differences in the business characteristics by type of dealer occurred; for instance, the average annual volume of business ranged from $1,514,300 for miscellaneous dealers and $1,493,800 for co-ops to $296,400 for chemical dealers and $446,700 for hardware dealers. Computing the annual volume of business per employee showed that chemical and feed mill dealerships earned more per employee than the much higher volume business, such as co-op and machinery dealerships.

All dealers frequently used the following means of communication: (1) discussing how to apply and how to use, (2) discussing the merits and advantages of the new products, and (3) informing farmers of new farming innovations. However, when considering the importance of these means of communication relative to the objectives of (1) helping farmers the most and (2) having the highest business payoff, discussing the merits and advantages of the new products clearly took precedence.

Dealers frequently advised farmers to use (1) sales literature, (2) certain farmers, and (3) local Extension agents in helping them learn and decide about farm innovations. These were rated as the most frequently used and the most important of the 13 sources listed in the survey schedule. Sales literature was the source most frequently advised, although the source, certain farmers, was rated as the most important.

According to all dealers the most frequently noted purposes for farmers contacting them were: (1) how to use a particular product, (2) general product information, and (3) how your product performs on his farm. However, for machinery dealers the most frequent and important reason for a farmer contacting them was to tell how your product performs on his farm while co-op and chemical dealers consistently ranked how to use a particular product higher.

The communication sources most frequently used and ranked most important by dealers in their learning about farm innovations were: (1) dealer representatives, (2) sales literature, and (3) up-to-date farmers. There were many variations in the frequency of use of these sources by type of dealers. Co-op and chemical dealers ranked local Extension agents and Extension bulletins and articles more important sources than other types of dealers.

The type of individuals that dealers personally asked for advice and information regarding farm innovations and technology were: (1) company representatives, (2) local Extension agents, (3) farmers, and (4) Agricultural Experiment Station personnel, respectively.

The proportion of dealers who named a person in the above four types of categories, as one of the three individuals most frequently asked about farm innovations, was 85 percent, 41 percent, 18 percent, and 14 percent, respectively. No other type of personal information service was named by more than 7 percent of the dealers.

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