The dairy event will mean change


This is the theme of the South Island’s largest dairy event, SIDE 2022, being held in Oamaru on June 8-9.

It was the first time the event had taken place in the city and was expected to attract over 350 farmers, rural professionals and sponsors.

Rebecca Finlay, a member of the event’s committee, who came up with the theme, said dairy farmers need to be dynamic – they can’t be stuck in their ways.

There was constant change as they dealt with new compliance and regulatory issues, and they needed to be nimble and responsive to that change.

For the organizers of the event, there was a sense of relief that it was taking place in the format they had originally envisioned, given the earlier restrictions caused by Covid-19.

Planning began a year ago, but as the situation kept evolving, they needed to keep looking at how to “repackage” SIDE for all the restrictions the country was under, so that there could still be a sort of connection for farmers to come together, learn and celebrate.

It wasn’t until March that they “pressed the game” on the event as it stood. It was not an event that could be held on Zoom because it was about connections, said Bridget McNally, a member of the SIDE governance group.

And that connection was something people craved, especially farmers, Ms Finlay added.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many had stayed on the farm, skipped town or vacation, or avoided visiting friends and family.

They couldn’t afford to catch Covid-19, time-wise, as the cows still needed to be milked and interactions with staff were required, so many had gone into self-isolation.

For the committee to be able to “work” and have a conference as they envisioned it was great.

“It’s a conference for farmers by farmers, it’s really essential,” she said.

The biggest driver that kept the organizers going when other events were postponed was the opportunity to bring so many people to Oamaru.

“We hope they stay with their partner for two or three days and realize how amazing Oamaru and Waitaki are and bring the kids back for a vacation. It’s that taste,” Ms McNally said.

Registration opened the night before so people could spend more time in the city, which benefits retailers, accommodation providers and hoteliers.

When asked why farmers should attend SIDE, Ms McNally said they would connect with people in their industry, learn new things, build confidence in what they know and learn new technologies and ideas.

Employers need to make the dairy industry much more exciting and attractive to people, Ms Finlay believes.

Part of this was to make the work less labor intensive and to use innovation and technology. So it was also about getting feedback from other farmers and hearing their experiences.

A diverse range of keynote speakers and workshops were on offer at SIDE, including a presentation by former Rocket Lab engineer Craig Piggott, winner of the 2020 New Zealand Hi-Tech Young Achiever award.

He would share how he found solutions to help his dairy farming parents reduce their working hours.

This research led him to start Halter, a technology company that has developed an agricultural system that allows farmers to easily move and manage their herd through software.

42 Below, vodka founders Geoff Ross and Justine Ross would describe how they traded their life in Auckland for Lake Hawea Station, the first farm in New Zealand to have its carbon footprint certified.

Dr Tom Mulholland, who spent 25 years in emergency medicine and eight years traveling around New Zealand with his pop-up medical clinic, would discuss strategies farmers could use to maintain their physical and mental health in times of stress.

Farmers were also able to participate in four of 14 hands-on workshops on a wide range of topics ranging from overwintering and the future of milk, to breeding, plantain and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

As part of SIDE 2022, a separate BrightSIDE event for young farmers and farm team staff who wanted to advance their careers was also held.

It included workshops on how to stay healthy, new technologies to make farm management easier, opportunities for career advancement in the dairy sector and the development of good financial habits.

BrightSIDE, which was sponsored by local employers, was a great way to reward new entry-level farm assistants and provide them with professional development, Ms Finlay said.

Organizers had spoken to people like Workbridge, the Department of Social Development and schools to bring in young people who could be “fantastic” farmers, Ms McNally said.

SIDE was based at the Oamaru Opera House and Brydone Hotel, while a steampunk-themed dinner party, Full Steam Ahead, would be held at Loan and Merc, preceded by drinks at Steampunk Headquarters.

A $100 off listing flash sale has been running until today.

Comments are closed.