Online Ag Week a welcome respite

Image Credit: Sinéad Mohan

Week three of the Spring trimester saw the UCD Agricultural Society take its yearly ‘Ag Week’ online. The week is much anticipated by the agricultural community in Belfield and the move online has been hailed a success by organisers and participants. Noel Bardon reports.

Preparations for Ag Week 2021 began late, as the hopes of in-person events held on campus diminished with the return of level 5 restrictions in January. The committee of the Agricultural Society succeeded in organising a series of online events over week three of the academic term, raising funds for Embrace Farm and the Strange Boat Donor Foundation in the process. At the time of writing, monies raised by the society’s GoFundMe page stood just shy of €7,400, with the stream of donations continuing, albeit at a slower pace than witnessed previously. This fund will close in the coming days with donations to be split equally between the two charities.

The week began on February 1st with Diarmuid Lee, current Ag Soc Chair, taking over the Irish Farmers’ Journal Instagram account to advertise the week’s events, with particular emphasis on the charity fundraising efforts of the society. Over 6,000 viewers tuned in to the updates delivered live from Lee’s home farm in Co. Galway. Monday also saw the launch of the society’s ‘’Round Ireland Run’, a week-long effort to have members complete a walk/run whilst logging the distances completed via the Strava app. The initial target of 3,171km, the approximate circumference of the island of Ireland, was surpassed when a total of over 3,500km had been registered by Strava onSunday the 7th. ‘County colours’ were donned by participants on Friday’s leg of the challenge, in lieuof the in-person event’s feature. The traditional event is synonymous with the rural community’s estranged sons and daughters of Belfield.

The viewing of the society’s Instagram story peaked at approximately 1,100 views
during the week, with some society tweets reaching 11,500 feed appearances.

Sean Tonra, in acting as Chair of the Ag Soc Careers subcommittee, organised two virtual panel discussions over the week. The discussions took place over Zoom with in excess of 100 students logging on to the talks on both days. Tuesday featured a webinar entitled ‘Transforming your business through technology’ with three progressively minded graduates of the UCD School of Agriculture & Food Science informing viewers of their extensive and varying experiences of the topic. Thursday’s discussion heard from eight representatives from the Irish Farmers’ Journal team. A broad industry-wide conversation on the challenges and opportunities emerging in the sector was steered by the Farmers' Journal’s Lorcan Allen. The webinar featured a lengthy question and answer session with students engaging with the speakers on the most pressing issues experienced at farm, research, and legislative levels. The specialists covered a range of subjects varying from upcoming changes expected in European legislation to the practical challenges in meeting farming climate obligations.

The society’s social media accounts were of paramount importance in providing coverage of the week’s events to students across the country. The viewing of the society’s Instagram story peaked at approximately 1,100 views during the week, with some society tweets reaching 11,500 feed appearances - both statistics are impressive demonstrations of the wider online engagement achieved by the society’s social media team. “Instagram and Twitter were the main modes of contact used to inform members of events. Without social media, I really don’t think there would have been an Ag Week at all this year” commented society Chair Diarmuid Lee. The Ag Soc Instagram account's following has almost doubled since the beginning of Ag Week, with this growth spurred on by the ‘Milk Neck Nomination’ initiative.

Without social media, I really don’t think there would have been an Ag Week at all this year.

The trend encouraged students, faculty members and industry figures to record themselves downing a pint of milk before nominating three others for the challenge. The effort was accompanied by an appeal for donations to the designated Ag Week GoFundMe page. The respective missions of the Embrace Farm and Strange Boat Donor Foundation charities are to “support rural communities in grieving the loss of loved ones from farm accidents”; and to “meet the humanitarian needs of donor families and recipients”.

Instagram was also chosen as the venue to host the virtual talent show. Sligo’s Darragh Giblin, a fourth-year student, clenched the title from the eight other contestants with a vocal performance. Over 200 votes were cast in the poll that followed the posting of all entries to the page’s story feature. The well-known influence of the Irish traditional music scene on Ag week was shown in the proportion of trad entries that were received by Ag Soc.