Exploring small-scale farmers’ perceptions and needs for non-formal leadership education





small-scale farmers, self-perception theory, qualitative research, agricultural leadership educators


Small-scale farmers serve in leadership roles within their operations and beyond, though it is not widely known whether they view themselves in this capacity. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the ways in which small-scale farmers perceive themselves as leaders, and to characterize their self-perceived leadership style. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants on their farming operations and utilizing Zoom. Observations and collection of supplemental materials were used for triangulation of data. Findings indicated that this population does view themselves as leaders, and that small-scale farmers characterize their leadership approaches differently, though some commonalities were found. Moreover, a desire for leadership education was expressed by participants. A needs assessment is recommended to better understand small-scale farmers' leadership education needs, followed by non-formal leadership education programming.


Download data is not yet available.


Bem, D. (1972). Self-perception theory. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 6, pp. 1–62). Academic Press.

Carter, H., & Rudd, R. (2000). Evaluation of the Florida leadership program for agriculture and natural resources. Journal of Southern Agricultural Education Research, 50(1), 199–205.

Creswell, J. W., & Poth, C. N. (2018). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches. SAGE.

Day, D. V., & Harrison, M. M. (2007). A multilevel, identity-based approach to leadership development. Human Resource Management Review, 17(4), 360–373. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hrmr.2007.08.007

DiCicco-Bloom, B., & Crabtree, B. F. (2006). The qualitative research interview. Medical Education, 40(4), 314–321. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2929.2006.02418.x

Drath, W. H. (2001). The deep blue sea: Rethinking the source of leadership. Jossey-Bass.

Evans, M.G. (1970). The effects of supervisory behavior on the path-goal relationship. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 5(3), 277-298. https://doi.org/10.1016/0030-5073(70)90021-8

Fazio, R. (2014). Self-perception theory: A current perspective. In Social Influence: The Ontario symposium (Vol. 5, pp. 129–134). (Zanna, M. P., Olson, J. M., & Herman, C. P., Eds.). Essay, Taylor & Francis.

Forero, R., Nahidi, S., De Costa, J., Mohsin, M., Fitzgerald, G., Gibson, N., McCarthy, S., & Aboagye-Sarfo, P. (2018). Application of four-dimension criteria to assess rigour of qualitative research in emergency medicine. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1), 120. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-018-2915-2

George, B. (2003). Authentic leadership: Rediscovering the secrets to creating lasting value. Jossey-Bass.

Harder, A., & Narine, L. (2019). Interpersonal leadership competencies of extension agents in Florida. Journal of Agricultural Education, 60(1), 224–233. http://doi.org/10.5032/jae.2019.01224

Hersey, P., & Blanchard, K.H. (1969). Life-cycle theory of leadership. Training and Development Journal, 23(5), 26-34. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1970-19661-001?ref=insight.openexo.com

Jamil, M. H., Lanuhu, N., Busthanul, N., Demmallino, E. B., & Melinda, I. (2020). Leadership style of farmer group leaders. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 486(1). https://doi.org/10.1088/1755-1315/486/1/012035

Kaufman, E. K., Rateau, R. J., Carter, H. S., & Strickland, L. R. (2012). What’s context got to do with it? An exploration of leadership development programs for the agricultural community. Journal of Leadership Education, 11(1), 121–139. https://doi.org/10.12806/v11/i1/rf7

Kelsey, K. D., & Wall, L. J. (2003). Do agricultural leadership programs produce community leaders? A case study of the impact an agricultural leadership program on participant’' community involvement. Journal of Agricultural Education, 44(4), 35–46. http://doi.org/10.5032/jae.2003.04035

Kwok, N., Hanig, S., Brown, D. J., & Shen, W. (2018). How leader role identity influences the process of leader emergence: A social network analysis. The Leadership Quarterly, 29(6), 648–662. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2018.04.003

Layfield, K. D., Radhakrishna, R., & Andreasen, R. (2000). Self-perceived leadership skills of students in a leadership programs in agriculture course. Journal of Southern Agricultural Education Research, 50(1), 62–74. http://www.jsaer.org/pdf/vol50Whole.pdf#page=62

Loh, J. (2013). Inquiry into issues of trustworthiness and quality in narrative studies: A perspective. The Qualitative Report, 18(33), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2013.1477

Merriam, S. (2002) Qualitative research in practice: Examples for discussion and analysis. Jossey Bass.

Moghfeli, Z., Ghorbani, M., Rezvani, M. R., Khorasani, M. A., Azadi, H., & Scheffran, J. (2022). Social capital and farmers’ leadership in Iranian rural communities: Application of social network analysis. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 6(55), 1–25. https://doi.org/10.1080/09640568.2021.2008329

Northouse, P. G. (2021). Leadership: Theory and practice (9th ed.). SAGE Publications.

Rutherford, T. A., Townsend, C. D., Briers, G. E., Cummings, R., & Conrad, C. R. (2002). Leadership self-perceptions of WLC participants. Journal of Agricultural Education, 43(2), 22–33. http://doi.org/10.5032/jae.2002.02022

Sessa, V., Ploskonka, J., Alvarez, E., Dourdis, S., Dixon, C., & Bragger, J. (2016). The relationship between student leaders’ constructive development, their leadership identity, and their understanding of leadership. The Journal of Leadership Education, 15(1), 15–30. https://doi.org/10.12806/v15/i1/r2

Sorensen, L.B., Germundsson, L.B., Hansen, S.R., Rojas, C., & Kristensen, N.H. (2021). What skills do agricultural professionals need in the transition towards a sustainable agriculture? A qualitative literature review. Sustainability, 13(24), 13556. https://doi.org/10.3390/su132413556

Stępień, S., & Maican, S (Eds.). (2020). Small farms in the paradigm of sustainable development. Case studies of selected Central and Eastern European countries. https://doi.org/10.15804/stepien.maican-8.2020

Wanjala A. W., Awuor E., & Ngala M. (2022). The moderated meditating effect of situational leadership and farmer characteristics on the relationship between change management and sugarcane productivity in sugar factory cane catchment areas in Kenya. African Journal of Emerging Issues, 3(9), 34–48. https://doi.org/10.53819/81018102t2087

Whitt, C., Todd, J. E., & Keller, A. (2021, December). America's diverse family farms: 2021 edition. USDA ERS. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=102807

Windon, S., & Robotham, D. (2021). The relationship between farmers’ quality of life and their leadership competencies. Advancements in Agricultural Development, 2(2), 50–72. https://doi.org/10.37433/aad.v2i2.105




How to Cite

Biderman, R., Greenhaw, L., & Harder, A. (2023). Exploring small-scale farmers’ perceptions and needs for non-formal leadership education . Advancements in Agricultural Development, 4(3), 16–28. https://doi.org/10.37433/aad.v4i3.341