This study is set within the context of two broader issues: the situation of small-scale farmers in Costa Rica that corroborate the need for Extension and the imperative to improve Extension services to these farmers. Through a “Work Experience Module” (WEM), student agricultural engineers and EARTH University faculty act as change agents and work with local farmers to implement innovations such as an Integrated Agricultural System (IAS). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the Work Experience Module according to: 1) the perceived roles of the participants (farmers, students and faculty) in the module and 2) farmer adoption practices of components of an IAS. The design of this study is a formative evaluation in the form of a mixed-method, correlational case study. The researcher used the same instrument to serve as both a structured interview guide to collect data from farmers, and a census survey to collect data from students and faculty involved in the WEM in 2004. Focus groups were also conducted with the farmers and students during the final stages of data collection. Many positive aspects of the module have been identified by its participants including the role of the students as: a means for cultural exchange; motivational factors for farmers to learn new skills; access points to information, research and expertise at the university; and other social benefits. Some interesting opportunities for improvement were revealed and participants identified effective and ineffective aspects of the module along with their suggestions.
Keywords: Change Agent, EARTH University, Extension, Integrated Agricultural System, Interpersonal Skills, Small-Scale Farmers, Sustainable Development