How the Pandemic has Impacted Farmer Outreach: From a Resource Professional’s Point of View
It is no secret that in 2020 everyone’s lives changed. Terms like “social distancing”, “Zoom”, and “virtual” became a part of everyday vocabulary. For those working in a corn field and riding inches away from clients in a tractor cab, those changes came with their own set of challenges. Safety had to become the top priority, but that discounted the work that could not be done online. Work that includes interacting. Work that rides on personal experiences. Work that demands boots on the ground.
I was hired on to a new role at AFT during the pandemic. My role is designed to reach farmers and help navigate conservation opportunities. In my first month, I reached out to a wide variety of resource professionals and asked, “how are you reaching farmers right now?” Long story short, it was a loaded question. Trying to plan online meetings with individuals who are so accustomed to in-person meetings, or big in-person events such as field days, was not going to be easy. Farmers place such a high value on personal interactions that getting them online has been extremely difficult.
But through it all, resource professionals and individuals like myself, have persevered and have found more creative ways to reach farmers. Whether it be a virtual coffee hour hosted on the first Friday of every month via Zoom, driving up to a farmer’s house merely to drop off a document and chat from afar, hosting large conferences as webinars, or planning meetings at local parks, we are all continuing to figure out the best way to further quality outreach.
Hosting virtual learning opportunities to teach farmers about technology and hosting webinars are other ways resource professionals have adapted to these challenging times. One significant positive of going virtual has been the accessibility of conferences and events to people all over the world. Not only have online events allowed for far reaching participation but decreased costs have opened accessibility to individuals who may not have otherwise been able to attend in person. Plus, online breakout rooms have opened the door to more intimate small group conversations about big agriculture topics.
While there have been many challenges during Covid-19, it is important to focus on the silver lining. There have been unique opportunities and new platforms that would not have existed otherwise. People across communities and the world have been interacting through technology and more research has been published: Doors previously closed have been reopened. As we move forward from this pandemic, we can only hope that people continue to work together, establish more inclusivity, and create opportunities for us to continue to grow in our life’s work.
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AFT would like to provide links for resource professionals’ contact information. We want to ensure that farmers have access to the resources they need in this pandemic.
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