Championing soil health in a time of social distancing
Sharing your personal stewardship journey is essential for Soil Health Champions and at the heart of why we join this network. One of the best ways to do this, is to invite peers and neighbors over to your farm or ranch and show them around. With social distancing orders in place, this is currently not an option, but there are ways to use the internet, video conferencing and social media to keep sharing and learning together. Solutions can be technically advanced or simple, depending on your situation and know-how. But first, here are some important things to keep in mind:
- Just as with in-person meetings, the goal is to set up conditions for a fruitful exchange, an interactive experience, and ultimately to create community! In real life, we often do this by sharing a meal or chatting casually while walking from the barn to the field. Even though a sense of ease can be difficult to create online –silences are awkward and the technology can get in the way– as the host you do have the power to set the stage. Choose your media according to your own comfort level and trust in your own style, which will help others relax as well. Just as you would when hosting them physically, you want to make people feel comfortable.
- Make an assessment of virtual communication tools that you have already in place. Using what you have experience with (be it a Facebook page, an Instagram account or a website) is a good way to start. Even your email newsletter can become the vehicle for a virtual farm tour, allowing you to share what you do to advance soil health.
- Don’t get bogged down by the technology! Choose the level of complexity that you can manage, that matches your skill level and that you have readily available. Start simple and optionally work up to greater complexity as you get more relaxed and things have been going well.
- Social media and online communications is second nature to the younger generation. Ask a young person to partner with you on the virtual farm tour, or enlist your kids or grandkids in helping you with the technology. As he’s out on the pasture with his kids in tow, sharing the day’s chores on Instagram, Tommy Casados says: “Every day is Ag in the Classroom now!”
Promotion and Outreach
Promoting your virtual farm tour is just as important as it is when planning a physical gathering. Depending on the size and platform you chose for your virtual event, your promotion will either be broad or focused. If you’re planning a public event open to all (streamed live on Facebook for example) you want to promote it broadly and cross-platform. Make it easy for others to share your event –provide a short, compelling sample text and a picture that can be used to post on social media.
Ask others to share the announcement and consider creating a Facebook event for the virtual farm tour, even though the tour might use a different platform. It’s easy for others to share a Facebook event and it creates a bit of a buzz as you can see who is interested in attending.For a more intimate gathering, have people RSVP in advance and invite guests by email with a link/login to the live event.
Give plenty of lead time to let your guests know how they can participate.
Be prepared to field technical questions and be available to troubleshoot.
TEST every link you send out or post online! Have someone else test as well and ask for feedback –make sure your access link stands out and is easy to find.
Send a reminder closer to the date and an hour or two before going live, clearly highlighting the link to join.