How digital brought agriculture to the city

In 2016 the Kids at the Palace program at the historic Cow Palace was on the verge of going defunct. Since the inception of the Grand National, the facility had hosted San Francisco students to spread agriculture to its urban neighbors. However, after several years of waning attendance and a lack of workforce, the program became too labor-intensive to sustain.

Dedicated to ensuring that agricultural outreach remained for such an under-served audience, I sought to right a sinking ship. Using our archive of contacts, I developed an email outreach campaign to spread the word. The series of emails with information about the program and the Grand National itself directed recipients to a digital enrollment process. Digitization funneled teachers into a journey with the appropriate event-day information to help address frequently asked questions. The last push to maximize coverage was partnering with local media outlets to promote Kids at the Palace and other Grand National events.

Kids at the Palace email on a white iPhone.

Cutting the fat; streamlining to improve the experience

To increase efficiency, I modified the event structure to include rolling arrival slots and rotating educational stations with volunteer guides to assist each group. Volunteers from the state dairy co-op, local rodeo queens, and the California Cattlewomen’s group staffed five stations on various agricultural topics. Everyone’s hard work achieved double-digit enrollment growth, allowing 500 urban students from Pre-K to 5th grade to experience agriculture firsthand.

Fail to plan or plan to fail

In reflecting on Kids at the Palace, the familiar adage about preparedness rings true. Unsure about our coverage and number of attendees, I focused on developing our event layout and curriculum after the first round of enrollment. In hindsight, requesting curriculum and securing volunteers in tandem with enrolling students allows teachers to educate on the event’s learnings ahead of the on-site experience. Also, reaching out for content earlier ensures that volunteers are secured on a rolling basis to accommodate a potential influx of attendees like we experienced.