We caught the bug. Please excuse our podcasts.

MSU Extension offers two insightful podcasts covering timely topics for commercial agriculture producers.

A man sits in a chair with headphones on and an iPad and green beans in his lap.

The coronavirus has really thrown educators for a loop, including Michigan State University Extension educators. But there’s a silver lining to every cloud, and this is a short story about one such shiny object. Around May of 2020, we caught the bug. Not coronavirus, though. Podcasts. We joined the thousands of people who were now stuck at home reaching out from the deep caverns of the in-home office with a podcast.

In the wide world of podcasts, you can find a cast of characters for any subject you want, including farming like “Thriving Farmer Podcast,” and even fake farming like the UK’s comedic “Beef and Dairy Network.” Lucky for us, the farming education and interview show was still a somewhat unplowed field, and there definitely were not enough pun-based titles. So, we went with “The Vegetable Beet.” Its revolving set of hosts from Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio and Ontario bring in guest commercial vegetable production experts from across the Great Lakes region to interview on timely vegetable topics throughout the season.

One of the reasons podcasts have become a popular medium is that they are easily accessible on a smartphone and appeal to multitaskers and folks who spend a lot of time driving. Visual media-like YouTube videos and Zoom webinars require eyes on the screen and burn up battery life quickly. Further, I know a lot of growers who wouldn’t touch a Zoom room with a 90-foot boom sprayer, but who text message like a high schooler and jam their phone up with pictures so badly they’d be sitting crooked if they were wallet-sized prints. Well, that’s the same tool you use to listen in to some audio-only, catered programming about vegetable production in the Midwest on “The Vegetable Beet.”

What makes “The Vegetable Beet” different from most podcasts? We record live shows on Wednesdays with Zoom and Facebook Live at 12:30 p.m. for 30-40 minutes, which allows us to grab some continuing education credits for restricted use pesticide applicators and certified crop advisors who tune in live. We’ve also got a great line-up of illegitimate sponsors that are more like short skits and caterwauls than real ads and jingles. To get a heads-up on the upcoming weekly episode and listen to the recordings of past episodes, go to The Vegetable Beet website.

While I’m on the subject, I must share another great podcast that Michigan State University Extension has going right now. It’s called “In the Weeds” and it is a monthly release run by Monica Jean and Sarah Fronczak on our field crops team that hits heavier cross-cutting topics that apply more broadly to our highest acreage agricultural producers. Statistically speaking, more of you would enjoy this one over the vegetable one because more of you grow field crops than vegetable crops.

Jean and Fronczak are great hosts who rope big topics down into practical territory with the ability to reword things and relate them with humor. They groom their guests well enough to bring good energy to the audio-only format. Many of their episodes are tied to written recaps that drill down on the key points of the show without being a straight-up auto-captioning of all the ums, uhs and ya’ know’s. For example, their recent deep dive into phosphorus has surfaced in several print and digital media formats, including “Myth-busting phosphorus in your fields” and “Flushing phosphorous down the drain tile.” To listen to the recordings, go to the In the Weeds website.

You can search “In the Weeds” or “The Vegetable Beet” on Spotify or Apple podcasts (and many others) to find us that way, too.

This article was originally published in Michigan Farmer.

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