By DOUG GRAVES
LONDON, Ohio — For the first time in its 57-year history, the annual Farm Science Review (FSR), scheduled for Sept. 22-24, will not be held in its traditional setting. Instead, a virtual show will be implemented for this year’s show.
The culprit in this case? The coronavirus, of course.
“Due to the rapidly changing conditions in the spread of COVID-19 across the nation, the decision was made to hold a virtual show,” FSR Show Manager Nick Zachrich said. “With our multigenerational audience, we determined a need to prioritize everyone’s health and ensure that we are doing our part to contain the spread of the virus during this global pandemic.”
Ohio’s “Responsible Restart” guidelines limits mass gatherings. Zachrich and his staff saw little reason to anticipate changes in the next two months that would provide for the ability to meet FSR’s daily in-person attendance of between 35,000 to 50,000 visitors.
Zachrich said the decision to go virtual with this huge event was made two months ago, allowing suppliers, exhibitors and partners time to plan for this virtual show.
“We understood early on that regardless of the number of cases, the show would have to take a drastically different approach in order to meet the health and safety requirements for COVID-19, such as physical distancing and sanitization,” Zachrich said.
The three-day event normally allows agricultural producers to peruse 4,000 product lines from 600 commercial exhibitors, view field demonstrations and learn the latest in agricultural production. Popular educational programs, such as “Ask the Experts” and “Safety on the Farm,” as well as educational programs featuring specialists from Ohio State University, Central State University and other land-grant institutions, were also key attractions to this annual event.
“We’ve worked diligently to plan for another incredible show demonstrating the newest development in equipment, research and application to support agricultural production,” Zachrich said. “What we’ll offer is a virtual show, with a mix of recorded and live presentations for the online visitor. It will be a mix of both. We’re planning on visitor participation with some of the live events that will be happening.
“We’ll still have field demos and we will provide some behind-the-scene looks at how many farm things operate. And, we’ll still have many of those popular presentations from our extension educators. Those in-person schedules that were offered in the past will be slightly modified, but I guarantee they’ll still be robust.”
The first Farm Science Review was held in 1963 at the Ohio State University Don Scott Airport, located northwest of Columbus, Ohio.
More than 18,000 visitors paid 50 cents to view 116 commercial exhibits. For the next decade, visitors were treated to such programs as research on 20-inch and 30-inch corn rows, the introduction of big farm equipment, solid-row soybean planting, conservation exhibits, fertilizer application by airplane and research to fight corn blight. Last year the show attracted more than 100,000 visitors from the U.S. and Canada.
“We are committed to delivering a highly interesting and innovative virtual show in support of agriculture during this pandemic,” said Cathann Kress, vice president and dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). “While it may look different in 2020, we will continue to meet the needs of our growers and partners through access to exhibitors, virtual demonstrations and education about the most recent advancements in agricultural production.”
Zachrich said his staff hopes to have a full virtual schedule in hand by the end of this month, adding that the public should visit fsr.osu.edu for ongoing updates to this virtual show.