Listen to me

Humans are talkers. I went into journalism because I wanted to talk to people, ask questions, hear their stories and share them. I talk to people for my articles in Canola Digest, a magazine that remains, thankfully, popular among canola growers. I also talk to people for the Canola Watch podcasts.

As a teenager, I spent a lot of time in tractors, especially at harvest. Radio was my friend. On 58 CKY, Huey Lewis and the News were in heavy rotation at that time with “If this is it” (somewhat appropriate for a teenager going around and around fields) and “Hip to be square”. I’m working out most every day and watchin’ what I eat still goes through my head. On CBC, I had Peter Gzowski and Morningside. I learned a lot about our country and its people from Peter Gzowski. While concentrating on keeping cultivator and swath passes straight, I had that caring character for three hours each morning. I wanted to be him.

Today we are more advanced. We have autosteer. And we can access any song or podcast at any time. Podcasts continue to gain popularity.

Edison Research shares results from digital media surveys in an annual report called “The Infinite Dial”. The 2022 surveys found that 58 per cent of Canadians 18 or over have listened to at least one podcast in their lives, and 43 per cent listened to one in the past month. These figures have risen steadily from 47 per cent and 28 per cent, respectively, in 2018. The male-female split is about even and the big demographic is 18 to 34 year olds.

A Canola Council of Canada survey in 2022 asked agronomy providers about their preferred ways to receive agronomy information. Only 19 per cent included “podcast” in their selections, but that choice was in the ball park with Twitter (22 per cent) and videos (23 per cent). Field days and email newsletters were the top two.

What is better for learning – reading or listening? I found a report from Virginia Clinton-Lisell, associate professor in educational foundations and research at the University of North Dakota. Clinton-Lisell published “Listening ears or reading eyes: A meta-analysis of reading and listening comprehension comparisons”, which found no overall difference between the two.

I tracked her down for a few follow up questions. It was the Wednesday before U.S. Thanksgiving and she was on her way to her mother’s farm. “There’s canola grown on my mom’s farm in northwestern North Dakota! So she was pretty excited to hear of your interest,” Clinton-Lisell wrote in an email.

Clinton-Lisell says reading typically has an edge in speed of comprehension because people usually read faster than presenters talk. However, she adds, listeners have a work-around: they can increase podcast playback speed by 1.5X or 2X.

Reading tends to be better for more complicated concepts. “My hunch is that being able to see the text allows for looking back and connecting different ideas in a way listening doesn’t,” she says. Listening has the benefit of convenience. “People can learn new information while they are driving or doing chores, which also allows for broader access,” she says. “So really, the best way to have access to information is to provide written and audio options – which is what you’re doing.” (I didn’t ask her to say that.)

I listen to at least 10 podcast episodes per week. My current go-to’s are The Decibel, The Food Programme from BBC, KERA’s Think, Radiolab from NPR, and Stories & Strategies from Doug Downs. If you are a fellow podcast fan, please listen to the Canola Watch podcast. You can find it through podcast providers or at Click “Podcast” in the Quick Links box.

After writing the flea beetles article in this issue of Canola Digest, I re-listened to episode 48 of the Canola Watch podcast. In that episode, Jim Tansey, provincial entomologist for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, explains how flea beetles find canola and how far they’ll travel for food. The article and the podcast will be a good one-two of reading and listening for farmers who want to enhance their flea beetle management strategy for 2023. An expert in North Dakota recommends you do both.

Canola Digest - January 2023