By Melanie Arthur, NFU Intern
Pre-pandemic, you needed a few essential things to host an on-farm tour or educational event. First, a place for people to park. Second, some hot coffee brewing. And, finally, a good story to tell and a megaphone to carry your voice across the farm and to your attendees. Now, with trucks staying parked at home and farmers getting their coffee refills at home, farm tours and educational events have moved online. We reached out to a couple of farm service organizations to see what new technology they’ve found works to replace the old megaphone to help carry farmers voices and stories across the digital divide.
“Some of the challenges were just not even knowing what we didn’t know,” says Tilth Alliance’s statewide education coordinator Erin Murphy about the tools needed to turn their well-known educational farm tours, Farm Walks, into podcasts. They connected with a local podcast consultant to learned new tools to add to their toolbox. These include a USB microphone for a smartphone with a pop-filter, to aid in sound quality, and a wind screen to lessen background noise – a necessity for recording outside. Tilth captures the interviews on an online recording platform called Audacity, which allows for simple overlaying of audio files and only records what the farmer and the interviewer are saying into their respective microphones during the phone call. For Murphy, it was important to be able to capture high qulaity audio remotely because they “wanted to have a way that didn’t require anybody to travel or have to be in-person.” Tilth also invested in two higher quality XLR microphones and an interface – a device that processes the audio from the XLR microphones before transmitting to the computer – for aspects of the podcast that involve interviews with guest experts.
Over in the Midwest, the Kansas Farmers Union (KFU) has also embraced new recording technology to transition their in-person events to virtual ones. To capture what the host farmers are sharing, they use lapel mics, which wirelessly transmit to a receiver that can be clipped onto and plugged directly into a camera, including a smartphone or iPad. Using a special tripod, KFU films most of their interviews with an iPad connected to a microphone transmitter and use an iPhone to record on-the-go farm tour clips. Since the lapel microphones and their transmitter don’t connect with a smart-device’s native camera, KFU invested in a video software app for their devices to record video and audio. They edit the footage using a separate software app, LumaFusion.
Both groups have learned a few key lessons along the way. One is to be aware of the specific equipment needs for recording indoors versus outdoors. Another is to become comfortable with your recording set-up prior to your scheduled recording or interview date. Most importantly, keep in mind that production does not have to be perfect. Instead, focus on high quality education and good engagement with the farmers as you capture moments that will have a lasting purpose and allow for sharing education with a greater audience outside of the farm – a value that will extend beyond the present moment’s virtual requirements.
Click here for a guide for setting up a/v equipment for your next virtual event.
Like what you’ve read? Join the conversation at National Farmers Union’s Facebook page.
This project website is supported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award 1U01FD006921-01 totaling $1,000,000 with 100 percent funded by FDA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by FDA/HHS, or the U.S. Government.