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February 28, 2011

How do you know that what you do has an impact?   We use a format called a Logic Model to help us understand if what we have set out to do has the results that we anticipated.  And if not, then what are the results, are they better or worse and bottom line, do we change what we are doing or do we continue?    The lingo behind the logic model helps to guide us with what we do. 

We have Robin at the main office to help us with the language and with Albert, our reporting system for Extension.   We also report to NIFA annually with the numbers of how many people we served and what we did over the past year.   The Vermont AgrAbility program is grant funded and we are responsible to design a plan and evaluation how we are doing.  Without this tool, then your everyday activities can tend to be a blip on the radar.  These evaluation tools help us to look at the body of work we do as a whole, over time.

Sometimes you don’t really know until years later and then either someone tells you or you see the impact yourself.    In the case of  this blog, I can look at the stats and then I can evaluate the data.  I can see the results building over the weeks, months and years. 

 Working with a farmer on safety issues is a bit harder to know if you have successfully done your job especially with the notion of prevention.  If there are  no fires, no barn collapses, no tractor rollovers, diabetics does not develop, stress is reduced….. those things are pretty darn hard to measure.   Cause what you wanted to prevent, never happened, so you could say you were successful.   But you don’t know if what you were trying to prevent was inevitable in the first place.   You know one of those ‘you could see that coming’  kind of things.  

Here is an example.   I meet a farmer  at an event and tell her about our program. I am asked to come to the farm and do a safety walk.   Before I go up, we have talked about the activities that they do on the farm and the farm family.  They have small children and they are new to farming and are planning to sugar in the upcoming year.  I grab a chainsaw safety video from our lending library,  some tractor safety coloring book pages for the kids and an information packet about  some extension programs. 

At the farm  we talk about tractor safety and they say that they don’t put the kids in the tractor bucket anymore since one fell out last year and nearly got run over.  They hold onto them in their lap now instead.  We have a talk about the risk in that.  Then we talk about a safe space for the children while the parents are running the chainsaw and splitter.    Good visit, left resources and on my way. 

Last week  the video was returned ( a year and a half later)  in the mail and a note that said, ” Sorry for the delay in getting the video back.  Thanks for coming out, we have changed a lot of the ways we do things now.”  

 And another visit a while back, with a bunch of follow up phone calls over the past year.   I got an email from that  client who said,

 “Thanks for your advice and recommendation to use a ram shield on my angry Angora buck.  As you know I was getting injured by him during the breeding season to the point where I was afraid to enter the goat pen he was in.  After putting the shield on him he calmed right down and was much more manageable.  It saved the breeding season for me here at Vivian Acres. ”   Good report right? 

But what good is this information if I don’t look at it in the context of the whole program.   Are farmers able to reduce injury because of prevention.  Are the activities that I am engaging with producing the desired results?   We know how many farmers we have done direct service with. 

We send out evaluations.  We keep in contact with our clients.  We continue to serve the community and  we look at the data as a whole.   Come April 30th, we will be at the end of our 4 year grant.   We are evaluating our work and looking for the places where we are doing well and being of service.  And we are looking  at the places were we hope to go in the future.  Evaluation is the key to our success.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Margaret permalink
    March 8, 2011 12:57 pm

    You make it all sound so real and “logical”! Thank you.

  2. February 28, 2011 12:08 pm

    Hey Robin,

    Now I gotta get it all into Albert!

  3. Robin permalink
    February 28, 2011 12:06 pm

    Nice job Alex talking about how evaluation is improving the important programming you do. Keep collecting that data!

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