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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Rangeland Resources & Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #351400

Title: Home on the digital range: Ranchers' web access and use

item GHAJAR, SHAYAN - Virginia Polytechnic Institution & State University
item FERNANDEZ-GIMINEZ - Colorado State University
item Wilmer, Hailey

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/5/2019
Publication Date: 4/9/2019
Citation: Ghajar, S., Fernandez-Giminez, Wilmer, H.N. 2019. Home on the digital range: Ranchers' web access and use. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 72:711-720.

Interpretive Summary: As rural areas and ranching communities gain more access to the internet, rangeland social scientists and outreach professionals need to know how to best use the internet to communicate science and other information through the internet. This study evaluates ranchers’ use of the internet in Colorado and Wyoming. Using a mail survey, the study identifies extent and barriers of internet use, and also describes a typology of rancher internet use. This includes ranchers who are uninfluenced, moderately influenced by and reliant on the internet. These findings can help improve how outreach programming engages ranchers over the internet.

Technical Abstract: Access to the internet continues to grow in rural areas, ensuring ranchers will have increasing opportunities to use the Web to find information about management practices that may provide them ecological and financial benefits. While past studies have examined the role of the internet in informing daily decision-making by agricultural producers, no studies have focused specifically on the use of the internet by ranchers in the Western United States. This study uses a mixed-methods approach to assess the extent and patterns of ranchers’ internet use in Colorado and Wyoming, identify barriers to greater use, and establish a typology of Web use behavior by ranchers. Our findings indicate that internet use is widespread, and that age, education, and risk tolerance predict the extent to which a rancher will rely on the internet for day-to-day ranch management. A cluster analysis delineated four distinct types of Web usage among ranchers: uninfluenced, focused on sales and herd management, moderately influenced, and an internet-reliant type. Outreach personnel can use this classification to determine the potential utility of digital outreach tools for their programming based on their target audience and outreach topics.