What do you do when the event you plan is too successful?
This was the situation for Convergence and the Lincoln University Foundation’s South Island Farmer of the Year Winner’s Field Day when an expected crowd of 200 people ballooned into a record 400.
The Foundation’s South Island Farmer of the Year is one of the top events in the agricultural calendar and the winner is assisted to host a field day so others can learn from and be inspired by the winner’s example of farming excellence.
This year’s winner was New Zealand’s largest free-farmed pig enterprise Patoa Farms. Patoa Farms supplies some 15 percent of the nation’s market and about 50 percent of the free-farmed pork.
Locals, farmers and food buffs were invited to learn about, taste and experience the success story of Patoa Farms with behind the scenes tours and topical presentations on today’s farming issues. There was also a display and tastings by runners up Lois and Robin Greer of Retro Organics, organic dairy producers.
Based on previous years’ events, Convergence and the Lincoln University Foundation worked on the premise that 200 attendees would about pull it up so caterers, bus operators and venue conveners were briefed accordingly.
However the promotional material released to the rural communities by the Convergence team – utilising paid and print news media, radio, rural letterbox drops and an extensive invitation database – caught the public’s attention, helped by the fact that the winning entrant’s story was compelling.
Fortunately all guests were asked to RSVP to the event this year (not a usual requirement), making it clear that it was a non-obligatory request to help with catering. With three days to go the 200 originally planned for was reached and affirmative replies were still coming in via email in a steady stream.
Our relationship with the caterers meant we were able to give them constant updates as the numbers came through. But what about the additional buses that would be needed? Fortunately good local contacts helped us come up with solutions. Hurunui College (five minutes down the road) offered their school buses at the last minute to complement the commercial hires so that all 400 attendees could get a bus tour to the farm itself.
It was tight for the caterers too, but everyone was fed and watered and the programme continued without a hitch. Best of all, within a couple of hours of the field day closing another stream of emails starting hitting our inbox – complimentary messages from participants.