It was a farm tour that would boggle the mind in real life. But luckily for Cassi Brunsveld, the 18,000 students and 990 teachers who had signed up for the YouTube live stream weren’t going to arrive on her dairy farm in person.
Brunsveld, program and resource assistant with AgScape, and a dairy farmer, took the students and teachers through a livestream for 40 minutes on YouTube, while an extraordinary stream of questions played next to it.
Why it matters: Agriculture can struggle to have its message heard, but increased online engagement has helped spread agriculture’s message further than ever before.
Groups and events that engage and educate the general public about agriculture have found exploding demand for their online content.
AgScape, the Ontario provider of agriculture information to students and teachers, was forced to pivot from its usual in-class sessions to more online learning. That meant that it was able to deliver 409,472 educational experiences in 2020.
Mercedes Unwin, program and resource manager at AgScape, said during a video presentation at the organization’s annual general meeting that 15,000 digital educational resources were distributed, with 310,000 students reached. The organization’s Growing Careers videos were viewed 15,000 times and virtual farm and food tours were viewed 60,000 times.
AgScape partnered with Farm & Food Care to provide virtual farm tours, including a partnership to present the dairy farm tour with Cassi Brunsveld.
Canada’s Ag Day, an annual celebration of Canadian agriculture, this year held Feb. 23, significantly increased its reach beyond the sector in 2021, said Isaac LeClair, a social media consultant with Farm Credit Canada (FCC). He also spoke at the AgScape annual meeting.
LeClair said there was significantly increased digital engagement outside of the core agriculture sector this year and that the event was one of the leading trends in Canada for 14 hours that day. More than 35 million people were reached digitally.
The event was mentioned by sports stars and major buyers of agriculture and food like McDonald’s. Prime Minister Trudeau took virtual tours of farms, which were then pushed out on social media channels.
“We had 10 people trying to keep track of it, but it was impossible to do,” said LeClair. #CdnAgDay was mentioned every 8.9 seconds on Twitter at its 10 a.m. peak.
LeClair says that the success of Canada’s Ag Day programming is similar to the tools he suggested in his presentation for success online and surviving the current digital reality:
- Be friendly
- Connect with people one on one
- Celebrate people
The next goal is to keep up the level of engagement for Canada’s Ag Day year round, he said.
Ferguson wins teacher award
Bryan Ferguson, a teacher at Ridgetown District High School was awarded the 2021 teacher recognition award. The award is presented each year in partnership with Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show.
Unwin says that Ferguson took students to a variety of farms and events including beef, dairy and goat farms. He also took them to crop events and his students learned about pesticide spray courses.
Ferguson says he has been using AgScape’s resources for 15 years teaching in a more urban setting in Sarnia and now in Ridgetown. He uses the resource not only in the High Skills Major in Agriculture class but also in a green industries class and younger science classes.