Virtual field days allow CAFNR Agricultural Research Centers to continue outreach

Barry Eschenbrenner and Sarah Lovell, co-superintendents of the Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center

From August to October, the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) Agricultural Research Centers showcase research projects and share demonstrations during its field day season. 

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Research Centers to reevaluate how they would proceed with their in-person field day events. After discussions with advisory boards and health officials, the decision was made to host the field days virtually. 

“Our field days bring research-based information to our stakeholders, which is a major part of our mission. Face-to-face interaction is a key focus and everyone enjoys the social atmosphere, the food, and fellowship. So, this was an extremely tough decision,” said Shibu Jose, associate dean in the CAFNR Office of Research. “It was a decision, though, that we made with safety in mind.” 

After making the decision to go virtual, the next step was to figure out how to stay connected to the public in an online format. The Research Centers, which are spread throughout the state, decided to keep their virtual field day on the same day as the in-person event – and post prerecorded video presentations on their respective Facebook pages and websites. 

“Nearly all of our Research Centers have a social media presence through Facebook,” Jose said. “We felt that the virtual event would be best served on that platform, as well as posting the videos on each of their websites.” 

The superintendents went right to work finding potential speakers and having them record presentations for the various virtual field days. 

“It was teamwork at its best,” Jose said. “The superintendents and their staff, the speakers, and the CAFNR communications team worked together to make the virtual field days a reality.  “This was an exciting opportunity, as we were able to feature some speakers who don’t normally attend our in-person events because of busy schedules or previous engagements.” 

The virtual events also allowed a few Research Centers, such as Bradford and Baskett, to connect with their audience in a new way. The Bradford Research Center (Columbia, Mo.) typically hosts numerous workshops instead of a traditional field day. The Baskett Research Center (Ashland, Mo.) has never hosted an event of this nature. 

“A virtual event actually allowed us to get more Research Centers involved,” Jose said. 

Two of CAFNR’s bigger in-person events – the Missouri Chestnut Roast at the Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center (New Franklin, Mo.) and the South Farm Showcase (held at the South Farm Research Center in Columbia, Mo.) – were canceled as well. Both Research Centers hosted virtual events instead. 

“These were probably the two toughest events to cancel, just because we get to showcase CAFNR to such large audiences,” Jose said. “But we are happy that each Center decided to host virtual events to stay connected with their audiences.” 

Below are the virtual field day offerings for each of the Research Centers: 

Greenley Research Center

Hundley-Whaley Research Center 

Graves-Chapple Research Center 

Fisher Delta Research Center 

Bradford Research Center 

Southwest Research Center 

Forage Systems Research Center 

Thompson Research Center 

Wurdack Research Center 

Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center 

Baskett Research Center 

South Farm Research Center