Where’s the “Reality” in Virtual Reality Farm Tours?

By Dan Toland

A lot of money, time and effort is spent by well-meaning organizations these days to produce recorded virtual reality tours or videos that end up high on “bells and whistles” but absurdly low on reach and engagement.

Considering these experiences are supposed to purport reality through virtual means, the pre-recorded, highly-scripted, meticulously-edited, 360 degree exercises in HD rubbernecking are as about as real life and engaging as an old school projector filmstrip.

When it comes to agriculture, there should be nothing to hide when it comes to connecting with consumers. So why is there so much invested in trying to button down and control the delivery? We can and need to do better.

Our live Virtual Farm Trips require a lot of time and effort, too. But it’s not spent polishing something that’s not super fancy to begin with. Farms have dirt and dust on them (shocker), animals aren’t always clean (super shocker), farmers aren’t always in their Sunday best, and their phones are the best way to reach them. So that’s what we use, and that’s what we show.

While our tours are largely unscripted, we do outline content and messages with our beef, dairy, pork and soybean partners. This allows participants to guide the conversation.

Our audiences use their webcams and microphones (after a bit of reassuring training and practicing with us) to engage in real and unfiltered dialogue with those producing their food. They ask any question they want, with our farmers and hosts doing the best they can to help them better understand their business.

And as long as they can keep a half-decent internet connection, our farmers are unrestricted by boundaries, going where they can on their farms to showcase what they do to a curious audience.

Yeah, things might get pixelated for a second and the audio will probably stutter for another. Maybe a class has a tornado warning or a cow will break a fence in the middle of a live trip (it’s happened).

But maybe, just maybe, THIS IS REALITY.

We believe an unscripted, unfiltered and unrestricted conversation with a farmer, connecting from their own device, on their own farm, is one of the most authentic experiences a person can have with agriculture aside from stepping foot on a farm. And we believe that once others experience this, they’ll believe it, too.

Our growing list of partners, and increasing number of classrooms we are are reaching, from remote parts of Alaska to the boroughs of New York City, seem to agree.

Learn more at VirtualFarmTrips.com