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What Workers Think: Communication Needs Assessment
for Latino Farm and Nursery Workers

by Ariel Ginsburg, Publishing Manager and Dionisia Morales, Publishing Manager
Oregon State University—Extension and Experiment Station Communications
ACE Grant Project 2016

Introduction

In 2013, requests from Oregon State University Extension Service (OSUES) faculty authors to translate their English publications into Spanish began to increase. At the time, standard practice at Extension and Experiment Station Communications (EESC) was to do verbatim translations. However, OSUES faculty on the ground reported that these translations were mostly useless: the Spanish was not how people speak and was at too high a reading level for most workers who needed the information.

When our project partner, Luisa Santamaria (Associate Professor, OSU Department of Botany and Plant Pathology) proposed developing bilingual tools more specifically for Spanish-speaking workers, we began to examine the formats that would be best to deliver the information. We decided that we needed to talk with people who would be using the information to find out what they would find most helpful. Luisa, who has a full-time Extension appointment, devotes a large percentage of her time training agriculture and nursery workers in plant disease identification, soil health, and safe working practices. She had strong, existing relationships with industry growers, owners, managers, and workers.

Our partnership with Luisa has been mutually beneficial. It provided us with a connection to the worker community and gave her the opportunity to gather data that informed her training. Luisa has been conducting worker survey for several years but has never gotten the depth of information that comes from talking with people in a focus group.

The key questions we wanted to address were:
  • What content format(s) do workers prefer? (e.g., separate English and Spanish publications, bilingual publications)
  • What delivery format do workers prefer? (e.g., print, online PDF, mobile-friendly)

Project Planning

  • Initial preparation. Dio, Luisa, and Gilbert met with Lena Etuk, OSU social demographer, to discuss best practices in focus group size, script writing, incentives, and coordination.
  • Focus group training. The focus groups were conducted in Spanish by Luisa and her assistant, Gilberto Uribe, neither of whom had previous experience conducting a focus group. Dio ran a focus group in English with nursery owners at the North Willamette Research and Experiment Station two months before the start of the focus groups. This was an opportunity for Luisa to observe focus group techniques. Prior to the first focus group with workers, Dio and Luisa role-played some of the key techniques for Gilberto.
  • Scheduling. The focus groups were scheduled to coincide with events that workers would already be attending.
  1. Farwest Show (August 25, 2016) in Portland, Oregon
  2. October Pest (October 13, 2016) in Aurora, Oregon
  3. Eshraghi Nursery Training Day (April 10, 2017) in Hillsboro, Oregon
  • Logistics.
  1. Ensure locations had Wi-Fi capability
  2. Ensure tables/chairs could be arranged for casual conversation and display of materials
  3. Bring mobile devices (iPads and iPods) and laptops for viewing mobile versions of materials
  4. Set up digital audio recorder to capture groups’ responses
  5. Provide participants a $25 Fred Meyer gift card to thank them for their timeand input
  6. Prepare samples of all print materials

Focus Groups

Initially, the project was intended to conduct focus groups with workers in the agricultural and nursery industries. However, early on, we decided to narrow the project to only nursery workers because of:
  • Access. A series of nursery worker trainings were already planned. We felt our participation rate would be much higher if we “piggy-backed” on these events rather than trying to recruit farm workers to attend a separate event. At the start of each training event, Luisa told attendees that they were invited to join the focus group afterwards. We assured the participants that their identity would remain anonymous and that each participant would receive a gift card. (Note: Participants had to complete a receipt with their name on it to receive the gift card, per OSU policy. No one objected to this.)
  • Materials. A series of publications on boxwood blight in different formats had just been completed and published in the OSU Extension Catalog. Luisa Santamaria was the author and translator of this material. These publications served as hands-on resources to frame the focus group conversations. For agricultural workers, we would have needed to use materials on different topics, which would have made the conversation more abstract and more difficult to structure.
The boxwood blight materials we brought were:
  1. Printed bilingual poster (EM 9124-P)
  2. Two printed publications, separate English and Spanish versions of the same content (EM 9124 and EM 9124-S)
  3. Links to mobile-friendly formats of each of the two publications
In addition, we used a bilingual publication in a flip-book format (PNW 659), in which the English and Spanish are separate halves of the book; and a publication designed with English and Spanish side-by-side (EM 8906).
  • Script. We wrote a script for the moderators (Luisa and Gilbert) to follow so that the same set of questions would be asked of each group. (A copy of the full script is attached.) These are the English translations of the questions we asked the participants:
Question Set 1 (10–15 minutes)
Purpose: To get a general sense of how the focus group members get information
  1. Let’s go around. Tell us your first name and what sports or hobbies you like to do in your free time.
  2. When you want to learn more about your interests or hobbies, where do you go to find information? Why do you choose to look for information there?
  3. When you look for information, what kind of device do you use? Why?
  4. Do you use social media as a source of information? Why or why not?
Question Set 2 (20–30 minutes)
Purpose: To gather opinions on specific Extension materials
  1. Here is the same information on boxwood blight that has been prepared for different formats. Take a few minutes to look them over.
  2. What did you especially like about some of the formats? Why?
  3. What did you not like? Why?
  4. Which formats would you be more likely to use to help you in your work? Why?
  5. Do you like to have both English and Spanish included in the same publication, like on the poster? Or do you think it is better to have separate English and Spanish versions of publications?
  6. What other ideas do you have that would help us improve how the Extension service can provide information to nursery workers and managers?
  • Participation. We had a total of 30 focus group participants at three events:
  1. Farwest Show: 6 people in one group
  2. October Pest: two groups, one of 7 people and one of 8 people
  3. Eshaghi Nursery Training Day: 9 people in one group
  • Documentation. All of the focus groups were recorded and transcribed. The transcriptions were not translated. (The budget did not allow for this.) However, Dio read them in Spanish to prepare this report.
  • Budget. The ACE professional development grant enabled us to pay for travel, printing, gift card purchases for the participants, and transcription of each focus group conversation. See attached for more detail.

Lessons Learned

We learned several important things through our conversations with the focus groups.
  • Almost all of the participants are smart phone users and regularly use their phones to research their personal hobbies and interests. They use other methods as well (such as talking to friends or using computers in local libraries); only a handful reported having laptops or computers at home. When it comes to work-related material, mobile-friendly resources were a priority.
  • Print material was also important to workers, who pointed out that Wi-Fi is not always available when they are working in greenhouses or fields that are far from main buildings. A format that participants preferred was the flipbook with water-resistant paper because it was pocket-sized and easy to “navigate.” We tried to emphasize that some of the samples we showed were mobile-friendly PDFs (which could be downloaded for viewing later without Wi-Fi), but this information was not consistently delivered.  
  • All of the participants preferred the bilingual format with English and Spanish side by side. They appreciated being able to use this format to check their understanding of what they were being told in English and learn key phrases to better communicate with their managers. Nursery owners also told us that they are interested in learning key words in Spanish to foster better understanding with their workers.  
  • The more pictures, the better. The workers appreciated photo-rich content that clearly showed things like safety procedures, plant diseases, and pest identification techniques. One group requested that more videos be available. As we wrapped up the project, we heard from another OSUES faculty member who pointed out that many of the Spanish-speaking workers in her region are not literate and that they would benefit from video versions of publications. This offers another avenue that we didn’t address in this inquiry: people who are non- or semiliterate. In fact, there may be people of low literacy whose first language is English who would benefit from more audio-visual delivery.  
  • The poster was the least popular method of communicating information.  
  • Only a handful of the participants were aware of the OSU Extension catalog. When we explained that all of the materials they were discussing were available through the catalog free of charge, they were interested in learning more. It led us to ask how we can reach out more to the Spanish-speaking community. 
In the months since we conducted the focus groups, we have published several publications using the side-by-side, bilingual format:

Attachment 1: Script

The focus groups were conducted in Spanish; the facilitators translated the following script for their use in the sessions. The script was developed based on advice from the OSU social demographer.

Introduction | 5 min
Moderator introductions:

Gilberto/Luisa—(Introduce yourselves). Today, we just want to ask you some questions about the kinds of information that you use in your daily lives and the kind of information that you think would be helpful to you at your job.

I work for the Extension Service at Oregon State University. Part of the work of the Extension Service is to produce publications for the public. There aren’t many Extension publications for the nursery industry that are in Spanish. So, today we want to learn from you about the kinds of publications you think you would find helpful.  

We have about 45 minutes and this is meant to be an informal conversation.

I encourage you to:
  • Speak openly. There is no “right” answer. We are just interested in everyone sharing their opinions.
  • Please ask questions as we are talking. Chances are that if you have a question, someone else has one too.
  • Finally, we are taping our discussion but it is only for note-taking purposes.
Question Set 1 | 10–15 minutes:
  • Let’s go around. Tell us your first name and what sports or hobbies you like to do in your free time.
  • When you want to learn more about your interests or hobbies, where do you go to find information? Why do you choose to look for information there?
  • When you look for information, what kind of device do you use? Why?
  • Do you use social media as a source of information? Why or why not?
Question Set 2 | 20–25 minutes:
Ask people to come up to a table with different Extension materials related to boxwood blight: printed pdfs, pdf pulled up on a laptop, mobile-friendly versions on 2 tablets and 2 phones, a full-size poster.
Here is the same information on boxwood blight that has been prepared for different formats. Take a few minutes to look them over.
  • What did you especially like about some of the formats? Why?
  • What did you not like? Why?
  • Which formats would you be more likely to use to help you in your work? Why?
  • Do you like to have both English and Spanish included in the same publication, like on the poster? Or do you think it is better to have separate English and Spanish versions of publications?
  • What other ideas do you have that would help us improve how the Extension Service can provide information to nursery workers and managers?
Thank you for taking time to share your ideas. Your input will help us improve the materials that we produce in the Extension Service. Before you go, please see Ariel or Dio and they will give you your gift card.

Attachment 2: Budget

We received $1,500 to carry out our project. Below is an accounting of how we spent the funds.

 Item     Item subtotal    Item total
 Gift cards    30 cards @ $25/ea  $750.00
 Travel       $162.00
   to Portland (Farwest Show)  $55.60  
   to Aurora (October Pest)  $57.80
   to Hillsboro (Eshraghi Nursery)  $48.60
 Transcripts
     $616.93
   Portland group  $180.49  
   Aurora group #1    $145.47  
   Aurora group #2  $155.57  
   Hillsboro group  $135.40  
 Printing (poster)      $114.14
       
 Total:      $1,643.07*
       
 *Overage paid by EESC      




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