Durham Farm Connections is hosting Facebook Live events to connect with students and other consumers across the region
By Jackie Clark
Farmers in Durham Region are putting on virtual farm tours as part of ongoing community outreach programing.
Durham Farm Connections, a sub-committee of the Durham Region Federation of Agriculture, ran in-person programs for students and the public for 14 years. Last year events were suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve been trying to figure out how to recreate that in a different format or platform,” Sandra Jibb told Farms.com. She’s chair of the Durham Farm Connections Primary & Open House Program, and produces dairy and crops in Brock Township.
“Durham Farm Connections is composed of volunteers who are agricultural producers and industry stakeholders who have a passion and vested interest in providing agricultural education to the residents of Durham Region,” she explained.
“The Primary Program and Open House Program were developed to provide information about agriculture and food production and to develop an awareness of the relationship between consumers and farmers,” she said. “Farmers understand that a consumer's interest in how food is produced continues; virtual tours allow them to better understand modern agriculture and animal care.”
Prior to 2020, the program “was an annual event for grade three students across Durham Region and it met the Ontario curriculum requirements,” Jibb said. Farmers would display livestock and other agricultural exhibits, and provide sheep shearing demonstrations. In the evening, the open house would be open to the public.
Over the years, over 15,000 students attended, and the open house saw 800 visitors every year.
Now, the Durham Farm Connections Primary and open House committee is “working with the teachers on content that is based around the curriculum for that grade,” Jibb said. The group will use Google Meet and Facebook Live to adapt the programs to a virtual format.
Virtual open house hosts are “all volunteers, they’re all agricultural producers,” Jibb said. “Overwhelmingly the response has been very positive.”
The hosts will give a tour and share what they do on their farm in Facebook Live events running from March to October.
Tours hosts include producers of beef, maple syrup, eggs, dairy, sheep, peas, strawberries, hay, apple cider, herbs, flowers, pumpkins, Christmas trees, goats, and more. Virtual attendees will tour an orchard with a winery, apple picking, and behives, and observe crop planting and harvesting.
To round out the agricultural community spirit, Durham Farm Connections will be making donations to local food banks of the virtual event hosts choice, as a thank-you gift for their involvement.
The hosts “think it’s a wonderful idea, they don’t need a gift, they just want to give back to the community,” Jibb said.