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Agriculture This Week: Technological advancement changes the way ag producers get information

The element lost is the coffee and donuts which was the time for farmer-to-farmer sharing.
cattle feeders
A podcast on cattle health is pat of changing way information is shared; (File Photo)

YORKTON - It was some time ago that a press release arrived in the mailbox announcing a veterinary professor at USask was launching a bovine health podcast.

The release caught my attention because it reminded how dramatically the dissemination of information to agriculture producers has changed over recent years.

I grew up following my dad to occasional farm meetings and field days, and always went home with a rather thick stack of pamphlets and fact sheets, which I would dutifully file away in binders in case dad needed to look up something.

To be honest, even when I was old enough, I read only an occasional leaflet, and I doubt dad read many more.

They became a bit like a mini encyclopedia, looking nice on a shelf, but rarely accessed.

The speakers of course were listened too, although I often had the thought dad learned as much, and enjoyed the conversations over coffee with fellow producers.

Flash forward a decade or so and I’ve moved away from the farm to cover the ag sector as a journalist.

The job meant spending a lot of days at farm meetings where producers still gathered to listen to speakers. It was a sharing of information, and a chance to get off the farm for a few hours which in itself is a positive. It is sometimes hard to distance oneself from the issues of farm business when you can see the combine out the living room window.

But in recent years the number of meetings has dwindled – although ironically there is one in Yorkton this week.

Still the trend is to hold less meetings to share information because there are other ways to accomplish that today.

The Internet has allowed for unparalleled connectivity, and that means webcasts and YouTube videos, blogs and of course podcasts have largely taken over in terms of getting information to producers.

The evolution was given a further boost when COVID hit and the idea of meeting via Zoom became normalized.

It makes good sense, at least for the most part.

There is a time saving aspect as producers need not travel, and since anyone with Internet can join in, the chance to interact with a larger audience exists.

The meeting can be recorded and becomes an accessible resource too.

So a veterinary podcast is a solid vehicle to share information.

But the element lost is the coffee and donuts which was the time for farmer-to-farmer sharing.

Sure at times that might have meant discussing a recent Hockey Night In Canada tilt, but it was also the time to talk about problems, and maybe solutions to farm issues.

That interaction with fellow farmers should not be discounted, but the opportunities are certainly fewer today.