Shiftology Virtual Dairy Farm Tour

From pooping pigs to calving cows to yakking yaks, students across the country have had the chance to see all that and more thanks to a rural Ohio communication firm with a huge following.

Shift•ology Communications in Springfield, led by Farm Bureau member Melanie Wilt, hosts Virtual Farm Trips — unscripted, live visits to farms for classrooms coast to coast. Started in 2015 with an Ohio Pork Council trip to a pig farm, more than a million students now have participated in the field trips without stepping foot outside their school doors.

“It’s a way for farmers to have their voice out there, to get across that they care for their animals and produce a high quality product,” said Dan Toland, director of virtual experiences for Shift•ology. “It’s not scripted but it’s organized, and it comes through like a television show.”

Virtual farm tours in Ohio

As of early December 2023, the company had hosted 381 virtual farm field trips involving about 60,000 registered teachers nationwide. Because the events are live, students can ask questions during the events. And because technology has advanced, multiple camera angles can be used to get close with a cow or to take a ride on a combine harvesting soybeans.

Commodity groups and other organizations sponsor the trips, so they’re free to students and schools. They’re also livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook so they can be watched from home, and they’re recorded and available at the company’s website

Much has changed since the trips started.

Shift•ology used Google Hangouts as its platform the first year, then switched to Zoom to improve reliability and access. Initially, Toland had to train each teacher individually how to access the trips, but technological advances and educator knowledge has eliminated that step.

Toland and another Shift•ology employee handle the production side remotely from their home offices, while a moderator handles the on-site equipment at the farm while the farmer leads the tour. Multiple camera angles can be used, cameras can zoom into the action, and gimbals – handheld stabilizers – keep the video streams steady.

The success of the Virtual Farm Trips has prompted Shift•ology clients to hire the company to handle other live events, such as conferences, board meetings and webinars. One memorable one was a Cheese Board Chat, sponsored by Midwest Dairy, where participants received a box of cheeses to try during the meeting.

Virtual farm tour studentsWilt said the company’s national client base is primarily agricultural-related, including commodity groups and agribusinesses, while its local client base also includes rural healthcare and education.

By doing evaluations with students and teachers before and after trips, Shift•ology has found that trust in agriculture increases after the trips and that’s why the virtual trips are vital.

“It gives the students a better understanding of where their food comes from and everybody gets a front row seat,” Toland said. “We really move the needle in their overall opinion of the industry and that’s a great benefit, and that’s coming straight from the farmer.”

Interested in hosting a Virtual Farm Trip?

Shift•ology brings agriculture to life through Virtual Farm Trips by assisting with planning, production and support, while your organization or association contributes farmers, special guests, moderators, and funding. To learn more about hosting or sponsoring Virtual Farm Trips, visit or email [email protected].


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