Farm Science Review draws virtual visitors

Female farmer holding a laptop while standing in front of a tractor

Neither too hot nor rainy, this year’s virtual Farm Science Review allowed viewers to nestle into a recliner or tractor seat to learn about canning soups, butchering meat on the farm, and operating new technology to better manage their crops.

This was the 58th annual Farm Science Review, but the first one held solely online because of health concerns.

Overall, turnout was a success, FSR manager Nick Zachrich said.

The FSR website recorded 40,000 visits, initial statistics show. That figure does not include visitors who were sharing their screens on their devices, Zachrich said.

“I do know of teachers who attended sessions and played them live to their class, so we know that one device could realistically have the potential of 20 views,” he said.

On social media, more than 33,000 users engaged with the FSR channels, and the show's Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram accounts have reached more than 300,000 users in the month of September, Zachrich said.

Visitors watched live exhibitions of the latest agricultural technology, learned helpful farming techniques, and heard discussions of current industry issues.

Agricultural economists from The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) discussed the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on commodities prices and farmers’ incomes.

Even in a struggling economy, agricultural exports have not gone down significantly because everyone still needs to buy food, said Ian Sheldon, CFAES professor and Andersons Chair of Agricultural Marketing, Trade, and Policy in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics (AEDE).

“Agricultural trade is being pretty resilient,” Sheldon said. “We’ve had a modest decline in global exports and imports.”

The foodservice workforce has been hit harder than agriculture as a whole and farm productions through the pandemic, said Joyce Chen, an AEDE professor of development economics.

Food production, including fruit-picking and meat processing centers, has seen large outbreaks, especially among workers deemed essential, Chen said.

“Although the government has put in health and safety restrictions designed to protect those workers at those plants, they have proven to be quite difficult to enforce, just given the nature of the work, and the need for workers to be in close proximity, to be around things that might get their masks wet or otherwise compromise the state of their PPE. And so those outbreaks have been quite large and given the potential to create some bottlenecks in the need to process in a timely manner,” she said.

Those who missed a discussion or exhibition during FSR should take note that many recorded video sessions and other material can be viewed at until July 2021.

“Anyone interested in seeing what is new in agriculture from our exhibitors or wanting to view one of the educational sessions can still access the Farm Science Review Online site,” Zachrich said.

In fact, new content is still being added to the site, Zachrich said.

“More field demonstration videos have been added on hay production as well as some on tillage and harvesting,” he said. “Some of these can even be viewed in virtual reality. Some amazing angles can be viewed on 360-degree cameras during equipment operation, with the viewer choosing what direction to watch the video.”

CFAES News Team
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Nick Zachrich