Through its annual County Activities of Excellence Awards, the American Farm Bureau Federation celebrates county Farm Bureaus for their unique, volunteer-driven programming. The following counties were among 12 recognized for their programs and activities in 2019 and 2020. The programs featured here focus on giving the public a close-up view of various aspects of agriculture.
Virtual Farm Tours
2020 was the year of the “pivot.” For the Sacramento County Farm Bureau that meant pivoting from in-person farm tours for legislative officials, county agency staff and the general public to virtual tours showcasing many aspects of agriculture in the region. The 21 videos the county released were a hit with consumers, legislative officials and many home school and distance learning providers.
The 2-5 minute videos, released every Friday for 18 weeks on Sacramento County Farm Bureau’s YouTube channel and their website, allowed SCFB not only to highlight the many vital and thriving types of farming in the county, but to also show how farmers were responding to the pandemic by ramping up their direct-to-consumer sales to accommodate people who wanted to avoid grocery stores and making sure their employees had the personal protective equipment and information they needed to stay healthy. Every video was reminder that farmers were #StillFarming through pandemic.
Sacramento County Farm Bureau started off with a focus on the top 10 commodities in the county as determined by the agriculture commissioner’s crop report and added in smaller commodities that were interesting to grow. They also wanted to show the various stages of a commodity, from seed to fork, or in the case of wine grapes, the glass. With segments on harvesting wine grapes, crushing and bottling them and a wine pairing, for example, the county Farm Bureau created a natural progression of videos.
Sacramento County Farm Bureau began filming multiple tours each week from mid-June 2020 through July. Though the tour videos they published were short, staff spent several hours filming and covered as many topics as possible, including the history of the farm, farming practices, COVID-19 compliance, farm safety protocol and harvest.
With about five different tours recorded, Sacramento County Farm Bureau debuted a promotional video for the farm tour series on Aug. 18. New farm tour videos were published each Friday from Aug. 21 through Dec. 25. Each Wednesday, shorter videos featuring a unique farm fact or aspect of a recently featured farm were uploaded.
Interest in the videos was high, with people in neighboring counties tuning in and educators and Ag in the Classroom affiliates sharing them in at least 25 different classrooms, reaching hundreds of students in third through eighth grade. In total, the videos received more than 5,000 views from all around the world.
The farmers who participated in the series also got a boost with a well-produced video they could share on their social channels or use in other ways to market their farms and products.
Dickinson County Farm Bureau’s Ag StoryWalk®, hosted in partnership with the Extension District, was designed to get county residents moving as they learned how hard farmers and ranchers work to provide safe, affordable food for everyone. The event helped Dickinson County Farm Bureau meet one of its educational goals for the year: coordinate with another organization to sponsor an activity that involved connecting food science to the community. The county Farm Bureau also wanted to promote the three state-licensed farms in the county that sell directly to consumers. With the onset of the pandemic, Dickinson County Farm Bureau expanded their objectives to include providing a safe, socially distanced activity that helped families in need in the area.
The groups planned one Ag StoryWalk® each, held the second and fourth weeks of July 2020 in two of the county’s downtown areas. For each StoryWalk®, local businesses hung Farm Bureau- and Extension-provided story boards based on Dan Yunk’s “Farmers and Ranchers Care about their Animals.” The boards were visible whether the stores were open or not and as people walked by, they learned how the safety and care of livestock is important to farmers and ranchers and how this care impacts the final quality of the beef we consume.
At the end of both walks, StoryWalk®-ers were asked to fill out a survey about their experience on the walk either online or on paper. Those who completed the survey received a voucher for 1-2 pounds of ground beef from one of the county’s three direct-to-consumer cattle farmers. Dickinson County Farm Bureau reimbursed the farmers for the 30 pounds of meat they gave to survey respondents. That number was a little lower than expected in light of the reports from the participating stores, but it may have been that people were reluctant to share their information for the survey. Still, Dickinson County Farm Bureau considers the program a success and intends to continue holding Ag StoryWalks®.
StoryWalk® was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. It is a registered service mark owned by Ferguson.
Applications are now open for the 2021 County Activities of Excellence. Up to 24 counties will display their winning activities at the 2021 American Farm Bureau Annual Convention and Trade Show in Atlanta in January. County award winners receive up to four free registrations to the Annual Convention (cost of travel and housing not included) and a $2,250 stipend to apply toward the cost of travel and exhibition.