North Otago farmers are being urged to get behind the South Island Dairy Event (SIDE) being held in Oamaru in June.
SIDE committee chairwoman Anna Wakelin, who has an 1100-cow unirrigated dairy farm at Hunter Hills, Otaio, with her husband, said the event, in its 23rd year, had traditionally been held in Dunedin, Invercargill or Lincoln.
Last year the decision was made to take it to the regions, and it was held successfully in Ashburton.
‘‘So this year’s regional destination is Oamaru, which I think will be fantastic for everyone local,’’ Mrs Wakelin said.
‘‘I’m really excited tobring it to Oamaru. I hope Oamaru gets behind it, and gives us lots of farm support to ensure that it keeps going to the regions.
‘‘Oamaru’s a great destination. There’s lots for people to do if they’re coming from out of town, which we’re pretty keen to show off.’’
The event, which was expected to attract about 400 people, was a two-day conference, on June 8 and 9, focusing on ‘‘everything dairy’’.
‘‘We have keynote speakers and workshops, and plenty of time for networking, which farmers really enjoy doing,’’ Mrs Wakelin said.
The first confirmed keynote speaker was Dr Tom Mulholland, who had worked in emergency hospital medicine and as a rural GP — in between working on surf camps and Russian icebreakers. He founded the Healthy Thinking Institute and Kynd wellness app, and had written two books.
It was great to have farmers speaking at SIDE, but also good to hear how other people had innovated, Mrs Wakelin said.
‘‘Dr Tom is going to be great. He’s an ex-comedian. He’s quite funny, but he sort of touches on mental health, and all the things we need to keep talking about, that reach into not just ours, but lots of industries.’’
The conference would be spread between the Oamaru Opera House, where workshops would be held, and The Brydone Hotel, where trade stalls and industry professionals would be set up for networking.
The whole event was ‘‘run by farmers for farmers’’ and was put together by a group of volunteers, Mrs Wakelin said.
‘‘I’ve got an amazing committee of people based all over, but there’s some strong SIDE support from people from Oamaru that have been doing it for years, and I think it will be pretty exciting for them to have it come to their home turf.’’
This year’s theme was ‘‘dynamic’’, because of the way farmers had had to adapt very quickly to the amount of change happening in the industry.
‘‘We’ve had to move with the times. But I think we find that we’re quite dynamic now — we can do all sorts of things, we’re capable of many different hats, when we’re farmers.’’
Organisers were holding their breath to see what evolved with the Covid situation over coming months, and more would be known in early March, she said.
If it was still to go ahead, the programme would be out by mid-March, and registrations opened then too.
‘‘If we got stopped, we would pause everything and re-run the following year in Oamaru. Obviously not ideal . . .but that’s life isn’t it, at the moment?’’
The purpose of the event was to keep farmers up-to-date in the industry, and offer them practical on-farm things to take away.
‘‘Farmers love talking to farmers, and listening to other farmers.
‘‘We touch on a range of subjects hopefully that fit the man on the ground, the man or the lady in the office, and the farm owners and everyone we can think of, you know, everyone in the industry.
‘‘The whole Waitaki and South Canterbury district have a big stretch of dairy, so it’s pretty exciting to bring it.’’