A-4/18 The importance of the advisor’s relational and professional competence and formal power in meetings with farmers

Purpose: The aim of the paper is to explore how advisors’ relational and professional competence influences inter-subjectivity and farmers’ perceptions of farm visits in a setting where advisors have formal power. Methodology: Advisors from the dairy company Tine, which is owned by farmers in collaboration, visit farmers at least once a year. The aim of the visit is to assist farmers in managing the farm and to control the production conditions in the cowshed. In a case study, we attended 10 such mandatory advisor visits and interviewed both farmers and advisors. Findings: Together with advisor style, our findings show that the power relation leaves room for advisors to define their roles widely, ranging from inspector to coach. Advisors have different perceptions of what their jobs are and when they have done a good job. These differences determine the degree of inter-subjectivity and how satisfied farmers are with visits. Furthermore, advisors’ relational and professional competencies are crucial for achieving high inter-subjectivity and satisfied farmers. Theoretical implications: This paper contributes to the theory by identifying factors that influence farmers’ perceptions of advisor visits, as well as by showing the importance of the advisor’s relational and professional competence in a setting where they have formal power. Practical implications: Partly as an outcome of this study, Tine has started a process to separate the control function from farm visits. Tine has also decided to let farmers choose advisors themselves. Originality/value: The power relation in our study differs from most consultant–client interactions in the literature. The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, DOI: 10.1080/1389224X.2018.1479280

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