The power of film to demonstrate innovation and learnings on farm

LEAF’s Marketing and Communications Manager, Simon Bull talks about the importance of farm demonstration to help drive forward knowledge generation and exchange within the farming industry, in particular demonstration, harnessing the power of film.

It has long been established that farmers enthusiastically engage with knowledge transfer through demonstration activities, in particular farmer to farmer demonstration events and this engagement between farmers can help the up-take of new farming technologies or practices. Demonstration activities also contribute to network building in agricultural communities, leading to longer term sustainability and economic development in rural areas.

LEAF’s network of Demonstration Farms are leading the way communicating, discussing and demonstrating Integrated Farm Management best practice to other farmers. They also play a critical role in promoting sustainable farming to wider groups such as politicians, industry and students. LEAF Demonstration Farmers are positioned perfectly to set the bar high for the industry and to show new innovations in practice.

To further best practice and extend the reach of on-farm demonstration activities across Europe, PLAID (Peer-to-peer Learning: Accessing Innovation through Demonstration) (https://www.plaid-h2020.eu/) a European funded project commenced in January 2017 in which LEAF are partners in.  PLAID is looking to encourage farmers and farm employees to embrace innovations in agriculture, leading to a greater sustainability of European Agriculture, by accessing high quality demonstration activities on commercial farms.

Paul Hewitt, Leckford Estate and Susie Emmett, GreenShoots

Through PLAID, LEAF alongside the James Hutton Institute, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the National Agricultural Advisory Service are trialling a Virtual Demonstration Platform as a way to demonstrate innovative on-farm practises online. The aim for this platform is to further facilitate farmer to farmer learning through demonstration whilst removing  the geographical barriers associated with traditional on-farm demonstration events.

A number of commercial farms in England, Scotland, Bulgaria and Switzerland are taking part in the Virtual Demonstration Platform and as part of their activities within the network have been given video training over the last few months to provide them with the skills and confidence needed to independently produce video content on  farm.

Over two days in February, LEAF hosted video training for 5 LEAF Demonstration Farmers at Madingley Hall, Cambridge.  This training taught them how to produce videos and other online content to promote and demonstrate the innovations and new technologies being used on farm to the wider farming industry, with particular focus to other farmers across Europe and beyond.

The training began by introducing the power of film highlighting the amazing opportunities film can provide to tell your story to a vast number of people across the globe in an engaging and informative way and show why it has become the most popular form of online communication.

The breadth of equipment and kit that can be used to capture and enhance footage was introduced, showing the best that money can buy but  highlighting that all equipment needed to produce a great video can be found using your smart phone. It’s all about knowing how best to use what you have available!

Farmers were then equipped with some equipment essentials to take home with them from a lapel microphone for the perfect sound to a smart phone tripod for the perfect video pan and phone holder to enable a steadier shot.

Patrick Harvey and Susie Emmett, GreenShoots

As well as using our smart phones, the group was also able to test other camera types such as action cameras and time lapse cameras, illustrating the footage we can get whilst on the move, or in our case driving up around the Madingley Hall Site.

This led in perfectly to our first activity which meant pairing up to shoot our very first footage on the course. Handy advice on the composition we should be looking for and the 'rule of thirds' for leading the viewer's eye around the shot came in very useful and the first efforts showed some great promise, imagination and artistic flare within the group.

Next, we looked at how important it is to storyboard videos before filming to help us tell our story with maximum impact. When filming it’s key to know who your audience is, what your three take home messages are and what is it visually what you want to film.

Our final activity of the day was getting to grips with editing using ShotCut Pro and iMovie. Within 2 hours everyone was able to crop, slice, add photos and music to footage.

We then headed over to dinner and heard from speaker Anna Jones, producer on the extremely popular Sunday Evening show Countryfile who talked about her Nuffield Scholarship looking at the importance of farmers getting their stories out to the public and the importance in being heard within the media. Our Virtual Demonstration Platform hopes to get the great and innovative approaches happening on farm out there to farmers and others alike. 

John Renner, Renner Farming and Ralph Grindling, Russell Smith Farms

The big test on day two began with each farmer storyboarding a video in pairs on a particular area of Integrated Farm Management they find important on their farms. They then went out and shot the footage they needed around Madingley hall and edited this to produce their first video. All in 3 hours! It was then movie time where everyone presented their videos to the group. One of videos produced by the brilliant Johnny Renner and Ralph Grindling can be seen below, where they highlight the importance of water management on their farm.

All 4 farmers did fantastically well with one farmer noting “It was the shot of inspiration needed to explore and use film. We have always loved communicating about what we do on farm and now feel empowered to do so via videos as well as visits!”.  Another said they “Thoroughly enjoyed the training and I can’t wait to use the skills learnt on-farm to produce our first videos for the platform”

We are very much looking forward to them producing their first videos for the Virtual Demonstration Platform throughout May and June. Watch this space!

For more information on the Virtual Demonstration Platform please visit: https://www.plaid-h2020.eu/workpackages/wp4-increasing-access-through-virtual-demonstration 

Or get in touch with Laura Tippin on laura.tippin@leafuk.org