Our Extensions program had plenty of trail to blaze in 2021.
Dedicated to delivering informative content and opportunities, our Extensions program fought tooth and nail to keep the ball rolling over the past two years. Throughout COVID, we encountered challenge after challenge with organizing events.
In response to in-person events closing early in the year, Farming Smarter set out to blaze a trail for digital events throughout 2021. While some events were a challenge to adapt to online, others proved that there is still room for innovation!
We hosted the Global Crop Production Virtual Conference in December, in lieu of our conference & trade show, which allowed us to invite speakers from across the globe. This was an event that never could have happened in-person as the cost of flying people from New Zealand, Australia, and England would have been too high.
While it wasn't the same experience, we were happy to provide the opportunity for our audience, as well as ourselves, to learn from the speakers at these events.
Over the last two years, like the rest of the world, COVID had a significant impact on our Extensions team. The move to online pushed us to develop new methods of delivering information.
"It's a challenge," said Jamie Puchinger, Farming Smarter's Assistant Manager and Extension Trailblazer. "You have to find the audience and reach them in these new ways they're looking for information."
For us, moving our events to a digital platform meant new obstacles to overcome ≥ both for us to deliver information & our audience to receive it. Additionally, this format was unappealing for some.
The removal of the networking aspect at events blurred the line between an event and just another online meeting.
"For our audience, pick up was really good initially. It started to drop off as time went on. People got more virtual meetings, scheduled on top of getting day-to-day work done. After that, online meetings for events sort of tapered off," said Puchinger.
While COVID was our greatest challenge, it also spawned some of our biggest achievements in 2021!
Along with the Global Crop Production Virtual Conference, we hosted a Virtual Pesticide Applicator Workshop as an alternative to the in-person workshops. These two events were successful, and innovative, enough that we wanted to continue them.
The reduced cost of running these events online is a no-brainer when it comes to organizing them. It allows us to reach further than before, and in the case of the Global Crop Production event, even around the globe.
"It makes sense for that kind of stuff," added Puchinger.
Even though we couldn't deliver the information directly, at in-person events (other than our Plot Hop!), we were happy to deliver it through other means.
Aside from our events, we were happy to see our strong presence in popular press ≥ many newspapers ran up stories about our work, or projects on the go. We were able to expand our audience in 2021, seeing growth on our social media accounts and YouTube channel.
Our extension program aims to show the value of the industry to people inside and out. Getting people who aren't involved in our industry some awareness of the skill, education, and commitment to sustainability and longevity is important for the development of the industry.
We aim to deliver information that better informs the community on how we farm sustainably and informs producers how to farm sustainably.
For now, we're anxious to get back out into the field to bring you those updates. We look forward to seeing you out in the field with us this year!
The next step forward
While we're excited to move forward with the return of in-person events, some digital events are here to stay. We'll be hosting our Virtual Pesticide Applicator Workshop for the second time, this year!
Register today & join us tomorrow for the opportunity to get 6 Pesticide Applicator credits and 6 CCAs!