Virtual Farm Trips program founded in Springfield reaches 1 million students

Global Impact leader: ‘This direct access has incredible benefits’

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

More than 1 million students in the U.S. and three continents have visited a farm virtually since 2015 through a Springfield-based company, including one local STEM school.

The Virtual Farm Trips (VFT) program, owned and operated by Shiftology Communication, started in 2015 to offer programs through partnerships with agricultural organizations to connect students with farms and farmers “to bring agriculture to life for students from the comfort of their classrooms.”

“This collaboration has allowed students in inner cities, suburban areas and rural districts, to experience first-hand the reality of modern farms and food production even when arranging in-person visits is increasingly difficult,” said Melanie Wilt, founder and CEO of Shiftology.

The 1 million student milestone was reached and celebrated during a live trip on National Farmers Day on Oct. 12 to Sanborn and Sons Dairy farm in central Michigan, hosted by United Dairy Industry of Michigan. A total of 384 teachers from 46 states registered 539 classrooms and 7,846 students for the event.

No local teachers or schools registered for that trip, but 26 Ohio teachers had registered 31 classrooms and 464 students from the Buckeye State for it.

The Global Impact STEM Academy (GISA) in Springfield has participated in several VFTs over the years, which has “incredible benefits.”

“It is a valuable and creative way to have students engage directly with producers from around the state and access farms and facilities that would otherwise be a significant challenge for the producer and the schools to make possible in person,” said Josh Jennings, GISA founding director and superintendent. “This direct access has incredible benefits, especially for those students who don’t necessarily have a production agriculture background.”

“The program started with a single pilot trip for Ohio Pork Council in 2015 during which we connected a few classrooms with a pig farmer in real-time,” said Dan Toland, director of virtual experiences at Shiftology.

VFTs is a program that offers students free, live, engaging virtual trips to farms across the country. They help farm biosecurity and school budget issues, and allow students to visit farms and talk with a farmer in real time to learn about agriculture. A diverse variety of farms and businesses of agriculture and natural resources have been covered, ranging from traditional large-scale livestock and commodity farms to smaller, niche and specialty operations like mushrooms and even a yak farm.

“Virtual Farm Trips has provided an opportunity for our partners and their farmers to tell their stories in the most authentic, unscripted way possible,” Toland said. “Students are able to connect with farmers in their boots, fields, equipment and barns on their actual farms. No two trips are ever the same.”

Shiftology, which provides the technical and logistical framework to help partners build a custom VFT, has hosted 364 trips for kindergarten through 12th grade students since the program began in 2015. As of Oct. 16, there have been a total of 55,804 teachers who registered 1,024,917 students for the interactive live trips since the program began.

“Public relations and agricultural literacy can be hard to measure, so we celebrate this milestone knowing we have made a difference in the lives of a million students and American consumers,” Wilt said. “It’s been a thrill to have a front-row seat to see one of the biggest innovations in agricultural communication in the last two decades take root.”

So far in 2023, the program has averaged 174 teachers registering 192 classrooms and 4,300 students per trip. However, this number will grow since the largest trips for the year will be held in late October and early November.

All trips are live streamed and recorded, and there is now access on the website to an on-demand portal of more than 300 past trips. For more information or if you’re interested in partnering with Shiftology to host a VFT, visit

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