Exploring the potential for videos and podcasts as knowledge exchange tools in the future ELM schemes

The Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes represent a significant shift in agri-environment scheme delivery in England. Currently, it is envisaged that land managers will construct their own land management plans, possibly with some advisory support (though not for all) and use this as a basis for signing up to the scheme. We know from recent studies that the provision of advice is vital to help farmers understand why they should sign up to the scheme, how they might benefit, how to apply and navigate the bureaucracy, which interventions to deliver, and how to implement these management actions (Hurley et al., 2020; Lyon et al., 2020). However, we also understand the challenges in providing one-to-one, face-to-face advice to land managers, not least because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, but also because of the cost of doing so – both from a taxpayer’s perspective if subsidised or from a farmer’s perspective who can struggle to pay for and access advice. COVID-19 has closed down key venues in which to exchange knowledge with farmers, such as agricultural shows, peer-to-peer learning seminars, on-farm demonstration events, as well as informal venues like meeting at a local pub.

Videos and podcasts are potential methods of delivering advice to land managers that do not rely on face-to-face contact. They have gained increasing popularity with the Agricology audience as a means for farmers, advisors and researchers to share knowledge and practical experiences with agroecological farming. In partnership with University of Reading and CCRI the team have recently conducted an ELM test to explore the potential role of videos in podcast in supporting farmers in the transition to ELM.  

This test set out to explore how they might be used in the delivery of advice to farmers based on a literature review, analysis of Agricology’s video/podcast channels, as well as a survey with 141 English farmers and four focus groups involving an additional 29 farmers. Though there have been many studies exploring the potential role of videos, there has been limited research on the role of podcasts.

Digital extension methods have received renewed attention with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on our empirical research, if videos and podcasts are to be used to deliver information and advice to farmers about Environmental Land Management, the following key messages should guide their design and delivery:

  • Farmers tend to prefer information and advice delivered face-to-face, preferably by trusted sources, such as peers or known advisers.
  • Digital extension methods, such as videos and podcasts, as well as live interactive events, have been used more by farmers since the COVID-19 pandemic. They can be an effective form of information delivery.
  • Benefits of digital events have included reducing the time and resources needed to access in-person events, as well as increasing national and international knowledge exchange.
  • Videos and podcasts should seek to recreate some of the hallmarks of trusted, in-person advice delivery – i.e. delivered by trusted individuals and with ‘live’ or other forms of interactivity delivered through monitored comments sections.
  • Videos should use appropriate language for the viewer, be concise, filmed with high-quality visuals and sound, and show how to do something in practice.
  • Podcasts may be longer, describing something in detail, and should also use appropriate language and have good sound quality.
  • Both videos and podcasts should be clearly indexed and accessible with viewers/listeners knowing where to go to find them.
  • Barriers of poor rural connectivity and lack of digital skills need to be overcome. Digital extension should only be one method of information delivery otherwise those who do not use videos and podcasts may be further marginalised.

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