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Rising to the Zoom Challenge on the Farm

26 May 2020
Type Media Article

By Sinéad Devaney, B&T Drystock Adviser, Teagasc Galway/Clare Region

As I write, we are experiencing a wet and very windy May Day. Hopefully it will fill the barns with corn and hay. A wet day can be an opportunity to take a final glance over the 2020 Basic Payment Form for necessary changes. The final date to submit amendment forms is Sunday 31st May. So if a land parcel needs to be taken out or included, if the land use has changed then these require an amended BPS application. Contact your Teagasc Adviser or Agricultural Consultant if you have any final changes.

The lambing and calving season has also come to a close. Discussion group season really kicks off from here on albeit somewhat differently this year. Under Covid-19 restrictions both on-farm or indoor discussion group meetings cannot take place. Many farmers enjoy discussion group meetings not just for the technical information which they share and discuss but also for the social and friendship aspects of the meetings. But Covid-19 has given rise to a whole new meaning of Discussion Group meeting and that is the virtual Zoom or online meeting. It allows you to virtually interact with others when face to face meetings aren’t possible. Zoom is a household word now across the world and across all ages. So I’d like to encourage farmers to get actively involved in trying out being part of a Zoom farm discussion group meeting.

Farmers who have already taken part in zoom meetings have given very positive feedback. It is a fantastic way to keep in touch with all group members and to see how they are all doing.

The Teagasc Advisory phone system operates on Lync, an internet based system, which can also be used to run group meetings over the phone with or without video. This involves the Adviser phoning all of the group members simultaneously so that all the farmers can join the meeting simply by answering the phone call. The call can be as short as 20 minutes or as long as an hour and a half to two hours. It can take place at any time of the day or evening. The date, time and topics for discussion can all be arranged with the Adviser and circulated to the farmers in advance of the meeting. The Adviser can also send out a reminder text to the farmers beforehand.  Another option instead of the Adviser phoning all the farmers is to give the famers the dial –in details so the farmer joins the meeting by phoning in.

Zoom operates similar to Lync. It is a video-conferencing software app. Advisers also use Zoom to run group calls and chats. Farmers can join meetings by internet or by using their mobile phone. Downloading the Zoom App to a mobile phone allows easy access to Zoom meetings. A quiet, comfortable place preferably indoors is recommended.  Zoom meetings have all the advantages of a “regular”, i.e. in-the-field group meeting e.g. technical advice, contact with other farmers, support for new ideas, learning environment etc.  It saves time previously spent travelling. A farmer can take notes when at home (not so easy when standing in a field) and meetings are independent of weather!

Here is a flavour of comments from farmers after trying out Zoom for the first time. “A good means to keep in contact. You are quick to forget you’re not the only one in the same situation, it’s nice to hear other fellas are in the same situation". Another farmer said it was good to focus the mind as hearing what other people were doing on farm gave him ideas of what he should do next on his own farm.

“I found it useful to engage with the other group members on topics. Very happy. I enjoyed the novel experience”. Some farmers were sceptical initially but not after doing it once.

Remember this is new to Advisers and farmers alike. But we are up for the challenge! We are all mastering new ways of doing things this year. And practice makes perfect. Imagine being able to say to your children or grandchildren that you have been on a farmers Zoom meeting. How cool is that! There is no limit to the possibilities of what can be done with a bit of practice on Zoom meetings. Specialists can be invited into the calls to discuss particular topics and answer farmer queries. Where video calls are used and where Broadband allows presentations can be shared on-screen.  If this is something you’d be interested in trying, give your Teagasc Adviser a call.