Nye County is 18,064 square miles in area with a population estimated at 34,704 (2000). Northern Nye County Cooperative Extension delivers educational programs within an administrative area that extends from Tonopah and includes communities north of Beatty, NV. In May 2002, Nye County Cooperative Extension conducted a formal assessment to help citizens identify critical research and education needs from a selection of six officially recognized program areas. After formally identifying these topics, Cooperative Extension will effectively address needs through research-based educational programs.
Organization of program areas for this assessment is based on six program areas officially established by Nevada Cooperative Extension.1 Program areas are:
1Nevada Revised Statute 549.010
Four hundred surveys were mailed throughout Northern Nye County. The sample population was selected using a current list of Nye County registered voters. Due to fiscal restrictions in conducting the mail survey, a sample size of 400 (6.5% of Northern Nye County population) was randomly selected from the complete voter list.
A questionnaire was mailed to each recipient with instructions, a cover letter explaining the purpose of the needs assessment, and a self-addressed return envelope. Of the 400 survey recipients, 75 returned completed questionnaires resulting in a 19 percent response rate.
Respondents were asked to prioritize the six program areas from highest (1) to lowest (6) priority. Table 1 illustrates the survey results. The majority of respondents (74%) indicated children, youth, and families (CYF) was the highest priority program area needed. Nearly half of the respondents (49%) assigned a moderately important priority to health and nutrition and natural resources. More than half of the respondents (64%) indicated that horticulture was the least important program area, followed by agriculture (53%).
aPercentages are rounded to the nearest whole number
Respondents were asked also to identify the level of need for a variety of topics within program areas. Topic areas were selected from the current Nevada Cooperative Extension programs conducted around the state. Specific program titles were not listed, instead were grouped into general program areas. Respondents were asked to select a number from 1 through 5 with 1 indicating “no need” and 5 indicating “high need.” Respondents could also indicate that they “did not know.” Based on these results, the most important topics were identified within each program area. Table 2 illustrates these results. The majority of respondents rated program topic needs as follows:
The final part of the survey asked respondents to identify the level of need for a variety of program delivery methods provided for them in a list. Respondents were asked to select a number from 1 through 5 with 1 indicating “no need” and 5 indicating “high need.” Respondents could also indicate that they “did not know.” The results are presented in table 3.
The majority of respondents (69%) indicated that demonstrations and workshops are the most needed form of program delivery. Other delivery methods included publications (53%) and newsletters (53%).
The following are additional written comments and suggestions volunteered by respondents:
The results of this needs assessment indicated several program topics that would be of significant value to citizens in Northern Nye County. The program area of children, youth, and families is the most important issue to respondents. Within this program area, respondents indicated specific topics of interest including parenting skills, job-seeking skills for youth, and the prevention of drug and alcohol use.
The majority of the respondents ranked extension program areas, such as agriculture and horticulture last. The random assignment of respondents may have selected mostly citizens who live in urban/town communities and may represent the view of people not directly involved in agriculture. Although agriculture and horticulture were ranked low, the greatest perceived needs in these areas were noxious weed education, desert landscaping, and tree and shrub care.
This assessment was useful in obtaining insight into the research and education needs of citizens in Northern Nye County. It is important to use an assessment method that is objective and includes a sample population that reflects a spectrum of views among communities. However, a good needs assessment should be implemented with both quantitative and qualitative approaches. The use of an agricultural /natural resource focus group conducted in 2001 was beneficial in obtaining insight from citizens who are directly involved in the agricultural industry. Information from the focus group survey will be combined to prioritize needs and implement educational programs.
Needs assessments should be conducted periodically to observe changes in perceived needs as well as to assess progress made toward goals defined by prior assessments.
After evaluating the results of this survey, an important component of the program development from the Extension Educator, should be directed toward children, youth, and families with an emphasis on educating area youth in drug/alcohol use prevention, parenting skills, developing skills for job searching. However, the areas of agriculture and natural resources will continue to be of importance for program direction due to Extension’s commitment to agriculture and natural resources. Results from the previous agricultural focus group and from this survey will be used in directing agriculture and natural resource programs such as agricultural profitability and noxious weed education.
Dillman, D.A. (1978). Mail and Telephone Surveys: The Total Design Method. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons.
Kretzmann, J. and J. McKnight. 1993. Building Communities from the Inside Out. ACTA Publications: Chicago, IL.
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Strategic Plan. December 2001. Reno, NV.
Suverly, N.A. 2002. Northern Nye County Agricultural/Natural Resource Needs Assessment. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension FS-02-20.
Suverly, N. and Singletary, L., 2002, An Assessment of Educational Needs in Northern Nye County, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-02-60
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