Virtual Farm Tours: Students Connect with Farmers in Real Time

Author: Ania Stilwell | July 11, 2019


Where does real milk come from? How long does it takes for milk to get from the farm to your table? How do dairy farmers care for their cows? Getting answers from real farmers on working dairy farms has never been easier. 

Using video chat technology, Virtual Farm Tours are helping students make the connection of where their food comes from and how it is produced - without having to leave the classroom.

Seventeen classrooms, grades 7 to 12, logged in for a tour hosted by Katie Dotterer-Pyle of Cow Comfort Inn Dairy in Union Bridge, Maryland. Among the 370 students participating in the tour, 20 eighth graders from Nissa Quill’s class at Walkersville Middle School in Walkersville, Maryland. 

The Teacher: Teaching Culture

Nissa Quill teaches Foreign Languages. Why have her class participate in a Live Virtual Farm Tour? “They need to understand the culture that’s happening around them and understand how the farmers live and that they’re close to us," says Nissa. Close enough that a couple of kids who grew up on or near dairy farms, and are familiar with cows and farm life, are in Nissa's class. But most of Nissa's class has no farming knowledge at all. "Those are the students that it’s important to connect with agriculture," says Nissa.

The Farm Host: A Familiar Face

When the Live Virtual Farm Tour began, Nissa’s class was surprised that they knew the host, Ms. Pyle. The dairy famer also teaches at the middle school. "They couldn’t wrap their heads around that they knew the person and it was live, and that they were watching her in real time giving the tour and actually doing the work while doing the tour," says Nissa. 

And Katie was all too happy to give students a glimpse into her life outside of teaching. "Dairy farming is what I love to do, that's my passion and it's really cool to be able to share the same experiences with other people," says Katie.  

Dairy Farmer: A Few Feeding the Many

“Being less than 2% of the population, we as farmers have a big job to do in communicating what actually happens on dairy farms and what we do on a daily basis.” That's why Katie Dotter-Pyle says she never turns down an opportunity to educate or engage with the public.

As part of the Virtual Farm Tour, Katie took the students through the calf barn where they talked about automatic calf feeders, showed them the milking parlor, and took a walk through the free stall barns so students could see the cows leisurely doing whatever they wanted to do - whether eat, drink, rest or socialize! 

The Live Virtual Farm Tour - it's also recorded! 

American Dairy Association North East offers Live Virtual Farm Tours uring the school year at different farms and in groups of grade levels: Pre-K, 4-6, and 7-12. The tours are recorded and teachers can access the tours for later viewing. 

Get a glimpse into the life of a dairy farmer and get some real answers - c'mon, you know you want to! 


American Dairy Association North East is one of 19 state and regional promotion organizations working under the umbrella of the United Dairy Industry Association. It is the local affiliate of the National Dairy Council®, which has been conducting nutrition education and nutrition research programs since 1915. For more information, visit www.americandairy.com.