Virtual tours gather global audience for Vermilion farm

"We're letting people into our way of life"

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Chatsworth Farm is a long way from Scotland and even farther from Nigeria.

But that hasn’t stopped the Vermilion-area farm from welcoming tour groups from these countries half a world away — virtually, that is.

Charlotte Wasylik.
photo: Chatsworth Farm’s YouTube channel (screen capture)

“I started doing tours in March as soon as our first lockdown came into place,” said Charlotte Wasylik, who operates a mixed farm with parents Rick and Johanna and siblings Nick and Alex.

“I just wanted to share what’s happening at the farm with our family and friends, so I started creating these virtual farm tours for them.”

The family would often invite friends and relatives out to the farm for calving season, but the pandemic prevented that last year. So taking a cue from the Cincinnati Zoo’s at-home safaris, Wasylik started doing virtual farm tours over Facebook Live twice a week for the people who follow the Chatsworth Farm Facebook page.

“At first, our following was quite small — just our friends, family, and neighbours — but then they started to share it,” she said. “As that happened, the audience grew Canada-wide and then internationally.”

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And the interest only continued to grow from there as Wasylik began to do private virtual tours for schools, mom-and-tot groups, and families across the globe that are interested in farming.

“It’s almost the whole way around the world, which is just staggering to believe,” she said.

“The interest about learning about farms and agriculture is so good to see. It’s great to know that people have such a curiosity and a wondering mind about what goes on, on the farm.”

That curiosity comes out in the questions that are asked, she added

Those from countries that don’t get snow most often wonder how farm animals survive in the cold — a question with a relatively simple answer. However, others — such as why eggs are different colours — are a little more complicated.

“Sometimes it’s very simple questions, but sometimes they’re really complex,” said Wasylik. “I always try to keep it at a really easy-to-understand level across the board because a lot of times talking about all of these animals and just farming in general is very new to people.

“So I want them to be able to understand, especially when I’m talking to younger kids.”

There’s no script or post-production editing, but Charlotte Wasylik’s farm tours shot on her cellphone offer a real-life look at what’s happening on her family farm.
photo: Chatsworth Farm’s YouTube channel (screen capture)

Each tour is a little different from the last as what happens on the farm changes with the seasons and even the weather on a given day. But, tools like Facebook Live and Instagram Live make it easy, she said.

“If you’re interested in hosting a virtual farm tour, don’t be intimidated by the technology,” she said. “All I do is press start. I don’t do any editing. It’s all unscripted. I just go with the flow.

“If people are interested in farming — which a lot of people are — they will be very happy to watch and interact with you.”

Back in March, Wasylik spent a lot of time in the calving barn, and then shifted to lambing in the later spring. Once the cattle went out on pasture for the summer, the tours changed again to focus on haying and poultry.

But most often, they include a look at the whole farm — and that’s the real goal of these tours for Wasylik.

“We’re letting people into our way of life. We’re very proud of what we do, and I think it’s important to share what a working farm looks like.”

Tours are a way to “get people excited about learning where their food comes from.”

And once the pandemic is over, she hopes to do more of the in-person version.

“I think there’s definitely a need for farm tours, and I didn’t realize that before I started doing this,” she said. “We’ll definitely be keeping up the virtual ones because it’s just so fun to meet people from across the globe and share our farm with them.

“Everyone leaves with such a smile on their faces. That’s exactly what I want.”

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Blair

Jennifer Blair is a Red Deer-based reporter with a post-secondary education in professional writing and nearly 10 years of experience in corporate communications, policy development, and journalism. She's spent half of her career telling stories about an industry she loves for an audience she admires--the farmers who work every day to build a better agriculture industry in Alberta.

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