Farm Dinner Theater
- Need: To encourage farmers to make health and safety changes on their farms.
- Intervention: Farm Dinner Theater is an event in which farmers and their families watch three 10-minute plays covering health and safety topics and then discuss solutions to the issues addressed in each.
- Results: In a study, farmers who attended the plays were more likely to make changes and tell others what they learned, compared to farmers who received an educational packet with the same information.
Farm Dinner Theater (FDT) is a program currently active
in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia that
brings farmers together to discuss health and safety
issues in a fun, relaxed environment. Participants attend
three 10-minute scripted plays and then hold a group
discussion after each performance.
Play topics are tailored to the community but can
- Animal handling
- Falls prevention
- Fatigue prevention
- Hearing conservation
- Skin cancer prevention
- Tractor and road safety
FDT was funded by a
NIOSH Occupational Safety and Health Research grant
and a Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation award.
Farmers attend a dinner theater with three 10-minute
scripted plays about farm health and safety issues. A
group discussion follows each play, in which the audience
discusses solutions to the challenges portrayed in the
play. For example, one attendee said he was having
trouble preventing his father (who had Alzheimer's) from
driving the tractor. Another attendee with the same issue
said he just moved the tractor out of sight from the
house, and his relative no longer tried to drive it.
To make sure the plays are relevant to a particular
region's farmers, a Cooperative Extension agent recruits
local farmers to be part of a planning group. This group
provides the real-life stories the plays will depict,
recruits the farmers who will read the scripts on stage,
and helps event coordinators figure out finances and
logistics. A nurse facilitator turns the planning group's
stories into scripts and then leads the group discussions
after each play.
In the initial research study, 553 farmers attended plays
and 317 farmers (the comparison group) received
educational packets in the mail. The plays and the
education packets covered the same topics. Researchers
called participants in both groups 2 weeks and 2 months
later to learn what health/safety changes these farmers
had made in their work.
Researchers reported the following results:
- After two weeks, 57% of FDT participants took health-
and safety-related actions on the farm, compared to 40%
of the comparison group.
- After two months, 60% of FDT participants took
health- and safety-related actions on the farm, compared
to 52% of the comparison group.
- After two weeks, 24% of FDT participants shared their
new knowledge with people who hadn't attended the plays.
- After two months, 38% of FDT
participants shared their new knowledge with people who
hadn't attended the plays.
According to a
2019 NIOSH Science Blog post, there were waiting
lists of farmers wanting to attend FDT. Participants said
they appreciated how topics were presented in a
non-threatening way, and one farmer reported going home
and making changes that night. A Cooperative Extension
agent said FDT has received more positive feedback than
any other program they had done.
For more information:
McCallum, D.M., Reed, D.B., Claunch, D.T., Davis, C.M., &
Conaway, M.B. (2021). Farm Dinner Theater: Testing an
Innovative Health and Safety Intervention among Older
Farmers and Their Families. Journal of Rural
Health, Epub ahead of print. Article
No in-person theaters have been held during the pandemic,
but FDTs in North Carolina have held virtual events that
were well attended.
Promote the dinner theater more as a night out for
farmers and their families and less as an educational
experience, although Cooperative Extension agents are
still allowed to promote their own resources during
discussions. Researchers advertised the event through
local radio and newspapers as well as word of mouth.
Researchers also created a Farmers Dinner
Theater Toolkit, where you can also find videos of
For more information about FDT, you can contact:
- Ellen Duysen, MPH, Research Assistant Professor at
the University of Nebraska Medical Center, at email@example.com
- Cheryl Witt, PhD, Assistant Professor at the
University of Louisville School of Nursing, at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Eileen Legault at the University of Tennessee
Extension, at 865.200.4527
- Robin Tutor Marcom, EdD, Director of the North
Carolina Agromedicine Institute, at email@example.com
Agricultural health and safety
Farmers and farmworkers
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
National/Multi-State, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia
July 15, 2021
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub,
Farm Dinner Theater [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at:
[Accessed 1 July 2022]
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about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The
programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural
community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s
needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep
in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.