Students Take a Virtual High-Tech Farming Field Trip

April 7, 2016 10:46 AM

You can’t always bring the student to the farm. But what if you could bring the farm to the student?

That’s what the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance started asking in the wake of producing the documentary Farmland in 2014. First came the theatrical release, then deals with distributors such as Netflix and Hulu. But CEO Randy Krotz and others at USFRA felt there were still missing opportunities.

“We have to connect with consumers culturally before we can begin to talk about how we grow and raise our food,” he says.

Krotz says connecting with students about farming can help lay that foundation at an early age. USFRA, in cooperation with Discovery Education, developed lesson plans and interactive resources and recently hosted a virtual field trip from the Deere & Company headquarters in Moline, Ill., to see today’s hog, corn and soybean farms in action. The event livestreamed in more than 1,200 classrooms on April 5, 2016.

The event was titled The Smart Farm for a very deliberate reason, explains Krotz.

“There has been interest in taking a romantic look at agriculture – the iconic red barn or the American Gothic painting, for example,” he says. “But in reality, we’re producing an incredible amount of food today and are adopting and using technology as fast or faster as any other industry.”

Minnesota farmer Ryan Veldhuizen explains why technology is so important in his operation.

“In farming we get one crop per year, and there’s a lot of risk at it,” he says. “Technology affords us the ability to do it year after year and get it right the first time.”

Krotz says USFRA will continue to look for ways for farmers to connect with consumers. It’s important to continue to make ag education a priority, he says.

“Some of the questions we were asked [at this event] farmers might take for granted, but it was genuinely new information for the students,” he says.

According to NCGA president Chip Bowling: "The virtual field trip was a great way to share what takes place on farms like mine with audiences that can't visit rural communities."

To see a recording of The Smart Farm virtual field trip, visit

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