Priming for production: A podcast on soil health
This project seeks to provide an educational opportunity for farmers in the form of a podcast (audio file) about soil science and soil management that can be consumed while performing farm chores like deliveries, tractor work, and greenhouse work. By making basic soil science concepts as well as new research and innovative farming practices accessible and entertaining through interviews with scientists and farmers, the objective is to empower farmers to become better farmer-scientists themselves. A farmer advisory panel including experienced and beginning farmers was convened and topics as well as format were ranked.
Thirteen interviews were conducted with over 30 hours of raw audio material over the summer. The first episode on soil organic matter was edited down to 35 minutes and put out to review by the advisory panel in August. Feedback was mixed, with very different feelings on format, length, and content. The timeline and scope of the project was overly ambitious, and as a result the writing, editing, and release of further episodes has been set back. Feedback following the first episode was valuable in guiding the production of further episodes and we anticipate re-releasing an edited version of that episode and others by spring of 2016. We are still optimistic about the potential of the audio format for information dissemination, but this is only a first step in refining the format. Following the release of the remaining episodes, we will put out an online survey for listeners to give feedback that may help those wishing to produce audio material in the future.
To meet objective 1a, that the podcast be relevant to farmers, we will convene a farmer advisory panel composed of experienced and beginning farmers. We will provide a list of possible topics, the panel will provide additional topics, and then will rank the topics. The podcast episode topics will be selected from the top-ranked topics. This was accomplished in April 2015. Topics for podcast episodes are:
- Soil organic matter
- Cover cropping
- Soil testing—old school & soil health testing
- pH & alternative liming materials
To meet objective 1b, that the podcast be scientifically sound, we will have the scientist interviewees as well as at least one other scientist review the podcast before release to ensure the material has been presented accurately. For first episode, this was done. It will be done for subsequent episodes.
To meet objective 1c, that the podcast be engaging as well as informative, each episode will include some narrative/storytelling components. Questions will be tailored to the audio-only format; where a visual cue would be used, clarification in words will be provided. The interviews will be conducted in person for maximum sound quality. Each episode will be edited and remixed to cut out slow parts. Finally, we will ask our farmer advisory panel to review the episodes and provide feedback on what could make them more engaging.
This has proven to be a very difficult task. Some podcasts are just relatively unedited interviews with people, and while the format is successful with excellent interviewers, they are often boring. The 13 interviews resulted in over 30 hours of raw material, but it requires substantial editing. Writing a narrative to string together the edited interviews is very difficult. The feedback from the first episode was helpful in refining how we can do this effectively. One thing that is very apparent with this format is that people have different tastes. Unlike a factsheet, which has a relatively straightforward and universal format, there is no established structure for a podcast like this, and there are divergent opinions on what is best.
To meet objective 1d, that the podcast include some actionable items, we will always include something that farmers can observe, measure, or implement on their farms instead of just theory.
This remains an objective of the episodes.
To meet objective 2, to measure the efficacy of a podcast as an educational outreach tool, we will monitor download statistics and site visits to our website. Online surveys will ask for feedback on how listeners’ knowledge changed by listening to the podcast, whether listeners intend to make any changes in their farming practices based on the information in the podcast, and how listeners rank the podcast in comparison to other outreach tools, and whether the podcast format in general (not this specific podcast) is an outreach tool they would utilize more if it existed. Room for specific comments will also be provided. Interpretation of results will include a comparison between specific episodes as well as a broader interpretation of the podcast as an outreach tool.
This remains to be done.
This project will be a half time job for Natalie Lounsbury for a six month period from April 1, 2015-September 30, 2015. The outreach and survey compilation and analysis will occur after this period.
This project was more time consuming than anticipated and is ongoing, but on an unpaid basis for Natalie, so it is taking longer than desired.
April 16-May 15, 2015: Pilot episode. Natalie will conduct interviews for pilot episode, remix, edit, and send to farmer and scientist reviewers. Reviewers will provide feedback on formatting and content. Revised episode will be released. Feedback will be taken into consideration for the next episodes.
Interviews were completed. Pilot episode was completed and reviewed extensively by advisory panel. Because of time constraints following the conclusion of the paid portion of this project, the remaining episodes have not been completed, but they will be by spring 2016.
May 16- September 30, 2015: Continuation of interviews and podcast release by Natalie. Number of episodes will be influenced by the length of each episode as discussed previously.
Thirteen interviews were concluded, resulting in over 30 hours of raw material. It was concluded by the farmer advisory panel that episodes should be 15 min-35 min in length, and can vary with the topic.
September 30, 2015- March 31, 2016: Outreach efforts for podcast, survey compilation and analysis (no time devoted to new podcast production). Meeting at end with farmer advisory panel to review and discuss project. Natalie, Ray, and farmer advisors will be involved in this portion.
This will occur in 2016.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
There are no impacts to report yet.
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