Farming interview guide

Farming interview guide

Structure the interview so participants feel comfortable discussing personal, family and community farming issues as well as and innovation challenges such as attitudes toward credit and risk.

The conversation will progress from specifics, to broad aspirational thinking and then to challenging “”What if…?” scenarios. Create thoughtful interview questions and sequence them logically to help you engage participants in conversation while staying focused on a particular research topic.

1-2 Hours
  • Post-it notes
  • Markers
  • Notepads
  • Pens
  • interviewers
  • interviewees
The HCD Toolkit
and all HCD methods are licensed under: Creative Commons License
Instructions for this Method
  1. Begin by brainstorming the topic areas related to your Design Challenge that you’d like to cover during the interviews. These may include: an explanation of their farm, sources of livelihood (both related and unrelated to farming), sources of information and influence or financing models.

  2. List the topics and then sort them into main categories and sub-categories. Identify if any topics are specific to male or female activities.

  3. Break your design team into groups of two. Assign each group a main category and ask them to generate a list of questions to ask in the field based on the topics listed in their category. For example, questions that address sources of information might include: “When you have a problem with the farm, who do you go to for advice? Have you heard about new ways of doing things in the past year? How have you heard about them?”

  4. Have each group present their questions to the larger team. Use post-its to capture questions. Add any additional questions that may be missing. Move the post-its around to sort the questions into a logical flow that will start specific, go broad and probe deep. This will form the storyline for your interview.

  5. Create your own interview guide by referring to the Practical Pointers below.


Check out the following tools for assistance designing your interview: Resource Flow Exercise, Factors & Forces Exercise, Aspirations Exercise & Cards, Journey of an Offering Exercise.
Try to sequence your interview questions to take participants on a mental journey from the specific to the aspirational to the tangible.
Open specific

  • Begin with simple, direct questions that participants feel comfortable discussing.
  • Farm demographics (How many people live on your farm? Can you give me a tour of your farm?)
  • Stories of recent past (How did this year’s harvest compare to last year’s? Do you expect next year to be better or worse than this year?)
  • What do different members of the household do? (What activities do women and men do differently?)

Go broad

  • Move on to questions that prompt expansive thinking about issues that participants may not consider on a daily basis.
  • Aspirations for the future (Use Aspiration Cards. Choose three cards that represent what you hope for your future. What did you choose and why?)
  • System-based questions (Use Factors & Forces worksheet. The innermost circle represents your household. The middle circle represents your community. The outermost circle represents the nation and the world. What factors in each of these circles affect your prosperity?)
  • Household (or Community) Resource Flow (Use the worksheets to illustrate or write household revenues and expenditures. Who do you turn to for information on farming and marketing your products? In your community? Outside the community? Who do you trust the most? Whogives you the best information?)
    Probe deep
  • Dig into the challenge using ‘what if’ scenarios.
  • Questions specific to innovation challenge (i.e Perceptions of Credit and Risk. Under what circumstances do people in your community take credit or loans? Have you ever taken credit? What for or why not? What was a recent, significant purchase? Journey of an Offering Worksheet, If you were offered a loan of $500, what would you do?)
  • Suggest sacrificial concepts (These don’t have to be feasible, but can help spark conversation. Create one possible future product, service or agreement options for them to react to. It’s good to be provocative.)

Discuss this Method