2022 – Central District All Faculty Symposium – Agriculture
M. Pinkerton and J.K. Yarborough, UF/IFAS Extension, Seminole County, Sanford, FL
Situation: In Seminole County, Farm Tour is a long-time tradition, held for over 20 years, to encourage support of local farms. Typically, Seminole County residents attend an in-person educational tour of local farms, but in 2020, this event did not occur due to transition of extension faculty and the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, the community expressed strong interest and support for continuing the Farm Tour tradition. In 2021, due to continued COVID-19 precautions, Farm Tour pivoted to a virtual format for the very first time. Methods: In collaboration with the Seminole County Government TV, agents developed six high-quality videos touring local agricultural operations and included farmer-led content on topics like organic agriculture, agritourism, livestock, the nursery industry, pollinators and more. Videos were also paired with a blog that dove deeper into the topics. Content was shared and promoted on social media during a week-long event. A follow-up survey was used to measure outcomes. Results: Through multiple social media platforms, the Virtual Farm Tour reached over 2,700 people exceeding the average 40-50 people at previous in-person Farm Tours. In a follow-up survey, 100% of individuals (n=67) adopted at least one practice supporting local agriculture after viewing the Virtual Farm Tour (ie. 83.6% purchased more local agricultural products, 71.6% helped to protect honey bees and other pollinators, 65.7% checked the label of produce in the store to see where it was grown, 55.2% participated in an agritourism activity, and 44.7% encouraged youth to explore careers in agriculture). Conclusion: Although a novel approach, the Seminole County Virtual Farm Tour kept the tradition alive and led to long-lasting, locally focused educational content. Feedback from farmers and viewers was extremely positive and it is no doubt that a virtual component will be important to Farm Tour in the future.