Virtual field trips to Alabama farms draw widespread interest

By JENNIFER COHRON
Posted 5/23/20

The Alabama Farmers Federation recently wrapped up a series of virtual field trips to farms around the state.

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Virtual field trips to Alabama farms draw widespread interest

Posted

The Alabama Farmers Federation recently wrapped up a series of virtual field trips to farms around the state.

The Facebook Live videos, which have been posted weekly since April 3, featured nearly a dozen guests who discussed their work with crops, livestock, fish and forestry. Designed to entertain and educate students after schools closed and then moved to distance learning, the videos reached beyond Alabama's borders to 22 states as well as Canada, Wales and the Netherlands.

"Fom coast to coast – literally from California to the Carolinas and Texas to Wisconsin — we've had people watching and learning what agriculture looks like in Alabama," said Mary Wilson, director of news services for ALFA Farmers Federation and host of the videos.  

The idea to offer virtual field trips during the COVID-19 shutdown was sparked by a suggestion from a friend of Wilson's who works for Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama.

Troop leaders were looking for online programming since Scouts weren't allowed to meet to do activities. 

"She asked if we had any farmers who might do some sort of tour. It snowballed into something that we offered for what we thought could be the rest of the school year," Wilson said. 

Jonathan Sanders of Coffee County discussed peanuts and other row crops with Wilson in the first video. The series wrapped on Friday with a discussion about cotton with Garrett Dixon of Lee County.

Other videos focused on fruits and vegetables, beef cattle, honeybees, catfish farming, tree nurseries and forestry. 

"The farmers were very excited to participate in something like this. I can't say for sure that all of them do farm tours, but for those who do, those were definitely canceled. This was a way for them to still offer a farm tour and educate not just students but their parents about what they do and what agriculture looks like these days," Wilson said. 

An archive is available at http://alfafarmers.org/virtual-field-trip. Each video is accompanied by a variety of related activities including recipes, coloring pages and online games.

Four-page Ag Mags on individual commodities produced for Alabama Ag in the Classroom include fun facts, key vocabulary words and activities such as mazes and word searches.

Developed with teachers in mind, the Ag Mags are now being used by parents who are making the transition to teaching at home.

Resources are available for every age group: coloring pages for younger students, Ag Mags  for grades 2-6 and worksheets based on separate Farming Feeds Alabama videos for grades 4 and up.

There are also 20-plus page online books that can be used to introduce youth to agricultural careers.

The books, online games and other resources are distributed by the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture through its kid-friendly site, www.MyAmericanFarm.com.

Though the videos and activities are largely meant to give students something fun to do, they're also imparting an important lesson about supply chains that even adults are learning during the era of COVID-19.

"There is a lot of talk about farm to fork, but we wanted to help make a connection about how there has to be some sort of raw material from a farmer for so many products that we use in our everyday lives. Whether it's in a grocery store or if it's off of Amazon, something in every item had to come from a farmer," Wilson said.