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276160

Personality Traits of American Farmers

How does the personality of farmers compare to other types of entrepreneurs? That’s a question researchers at Illinois State University and Purdue University set out to answer by conducting a study on the personality traits of American farmers. 

The research asked farmers to complete a common type of personality survey, called the Big Five (described below). The survey measured things like openness, extroversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, among others. 

“This type of information has been considered outside of agriculture in connection with business ownership,” says Aslihan Spaulding, professor of agribusiness at Illinois State University. “We hoped to see if the personality drivers for farm business owners were similar to other businesses, or if factors like risk-taking and independence, for example, attract personalities in agriculture that make farm business ownership unique.”

Other factors that were considered included demographic factors like gender, age, and type of farming operation. “We are at a time when a younger generation of farm decision makers are having a tremendous impact on the agricultural landscape,” says Scott Downey, associate professor at Purdue University. “Understanding personality factors can be important in terms of thinking about how scientists and others communicate new ideas and practices that will help farmers be more successful.”

Big 5 Personality Traits Definition
Openess to experience Describes comfort with originality and complexity in life.
Conscientiousness Describes work ethic, sense of community, and organization.
Extroversion Implies an energetic approach toward the world.
Agreeableness Considers natural levels of trust and cooperation.
Neuroticism Looks at stability and even-temperedness.

Research Results

Results showed that farmers were lower than other types of entrepreneurs on two factors: agreeableness and extroversion. Spaulding speculated that the independent nature of farming may be the reason for the difference. “Selling commodities is very different than selling other types of products. Interacting with customers and dealing with investors requires more of an outgoing personality in nonfarm businesses,” Spaulding explains.

Among farmer responses, age did appear to be a factor. “Our study indicated that age and agreeableness were correlated,” Downey adds. “That means that older farmers seem to be more agreeable than younger farmers. This could be because they are more settled and connected to their communities, but we don’t know enough yet to be able to identify the exact reasons.”

The study considered the results from 177 farm business respondents. The study was promoted by Successful Farming and several other organizations in Illinois and Indiana who work with farmers across the U.S. 

Written by Scott Downey, associate professor at Purdue University, and Aslihan Spaulding, professor of agribusiness at Illinois State University

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