A Multi-State Agricultural Literacy Assessment of Extension Professionals and Volunteers



agricultural literacy, multistate, Cooperative Extension, adult volunteerism, extension professionals, agricultural assessment, program development, agricultural education


Cooperative Extension employees and primary volunteers have opportunities to improve agricultural literacy among community members, yet little is known about the agricultural literacy proficiency of these community educators. It is generally assumed that Extension workers and volunteers are agriculturally literate; this study sought to provide evidence of existing agricultural literacy proficiency and identify high and low knowledge domains in State 1, State 2, and State 3 participants. The following objectives guided the study: 1) Describe the agricultural literacy proficiency of participants by state and focus area, 2) Determine the influence of years of service on agricultural literacy proficiency, and 3) Identify the strengths and weaknesses of Extension professionals and volunteers related to agricultural literacy. The Judd-Murray Agricultural Literacy Instrument (JMALI) assessment was used to capture data. Results showed that Extension professionals and volunteers were either factually literate or applicably proficient. Data indicated that role, years of service, and career stage had no significant relationship with assessment instrument score. We also determined that participants showed a high domain knowledge of agriculture and its connection to the environment but struggled to answer questions related to current topics of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Further research is needed to understand better why early career professionals and younger volunteers had proficiency scores like those with fifteen or more years of experience. The study shows the need for ongoing professional development for Extension employees and primary volunteers focusing on STEM integration and knowledge-based instruction.


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Author Biographies

Rose Judd-Murray, Utah State University

Assistant Professor, Applied Sciences, Technology & Education

Dr. Rose Judd-Murray is a dedicated educator with a twenty-five-year journey in agricultural, environmental, and outdoor education programs. She specializes in nonformal education, excelling in online course development, workshop presentation, adult education, and curriculum evaluation.

She received her Ph.D. from Utah State University’s School of Teacher Education and Leadership, focusing on Instructional Leadership. She is currently serving as an Assistant Professor at USU in the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences as the program leader for the Nonformal and Community-Based Education program. She also has a joint appointment with the Center for Anticipatory Intelligence in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences as the program leader for the Biosecurity emphasis. The dual role allows her to express her expertise in interdisciplinary science curricula and adult education. Her courses in nonformal teaching methods, community program planning, global food security, and biosecurity are foundational for students seeking career readiness skills that improve earth and human systems.

Dr. Judd-Murray has been recognized for her agricultural literacy research, effort as an Honors Distinguished Faculty member, World Food Prize Global Guide, and work in the Planetary Thinking for Sustainability fellowship. She was awarded the Master Teacher Certification in 2021, the ACUE Certification for Effective Online Instruction in 2021, and the 2023-2024 Early Career Teacher of the Year for her college.

Through her extensive accomplishments, she continues to shape the future of public and private community educators and advocates by nurturing the growth and development of her students.

Nellie Hill-Sullins, Kansas State University

Assistant Professor, Agricultural Communications and Journalism

Dr. Nellie Hill is an assistant professor of agricultural communications and journalism at Kansas State University. Originally from Pilsen, Kansas, Dr. Hill received her bachelor’s degree in 2012 from the Kansas State agricultural communications and journalism program she now teaches within. She earned her master’s degree at Texas Tech University in 2013. She then gained professional experience in communications and marketing while working for entities including state government, higher education, a private hunting club, and financial services. Dr. Hill returned to Texas Tech, earning her doctoral degree in 2020. Prior to joining the faculty at Kansas State, she helped to establish the agricultural communications program as an assistant professor at New Mexico State University. Dr. Hill has been recognized for her scholarship by earning the Association for Communication Excellence Outstanding Dissertation award in 2021, as well as for her teaching by receiving the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Graduate Student Teaching award in 2020.

Shannon Norris-Parish, New Mexico State University

Assistant Professor, Agricultural & Extension Education

Dr. Shannon Norris-Parish graduated from Texas A&M University in 2020 with a Ph.D. in Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications. She also has certificates in Advanced Research Methods and Homeland Security. For her doctoral dissertation, she developed a curricular framework for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) to use when conducting agricultural assessments in Middle Eastern conflict zones. She is very passionate about connecting food security research to homeland defense efforts.

While at Texas A&M, Dr. Norris-Parish was named a Buck Weirus Spirit Award Recipient, the 2020 Friend of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the 2020 Presidential Award for Student Advocacy. She received her B.S. from New Mexico State University in Agricultural and Extension Education in 2013, and her M.S. from Oklahoma State University in Agricultural Communications in 2015.

Dr. Norris-Parish also worked for two years as the recruiting and retention coordinator in NMSU’s College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences academic programs. In this role, Dr. Norris-Parish advised or co-advised the ACES Ambassadors, ACES Mentors, and ACES Council Officers. These experiences sparked a fire for student development and student affairs that she hopes to continue in her future agricultural communications classrooms.

Dr. Norris-Parish grew up on a beef cattle ranch in Cliff, New Mexico, and she was active in 4-H and FFA. She served as the New Mexico FFA State Secretary in 2008-09 and as a National FFA Officer as the Western Region Vice President in 2010–11. Dr. Norris-Parish is also a Ziglar-certified speaker and trainer.

Gaea Hock, Kansas State University

Associate Professor, Agricultural Education

Dr. Hock teaches introduction to agricultural education and teaching methods; she assists with student intern placement and supervision during the spring semester; serves as an advisor for agricultural education students and helps recruit new students into the major. 

Dr. Hock was formerly an agricultural education instructor and FFA advisor at Centre High School. She was also an instructor of agricultural leadership at Texas Tech University and an assistant professor of agricultural education at Mississippi State University before returning to her alma mater. She is a member of the American Association for Agricultural Education, National Association of Agricultural Educators, and North America Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture.  She and her husband, Matthew, are proud parents of Corabel and Jasper. 




How to Cite

Judd-Murray, R., Hill-Sullins, N., Norris-Parish, S., & Hock, G. (2024). A Multi-State Agricultural Literacy Assessment of Extension Professionals and Volunteers. Journal of Agricultural Education, 65(2), 191–208. Retrieved from https://jae-online.org/index.php/jae/article/view/2481



Journal of Agricultural Education

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