While COVID-19 restrictions temporarily ended Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s face-to-face extension events, online webinars proved very popular over the lockdown period attracting large numbers of participants.
B+LNZ’s General Manager South Island John Ladley says he has been impressed with the way the regional team pivoted so quickly after the lockdown announcement to put together online events and extension activities.
Amongst the stand-outs were two wintering webinars run in conjunction with DairyNZ which attracted over 500 farmers and a two-part webinar series featuring All Blacks psychologist Ceri Evans which reached over 300 people.
“These highlighted the platform’s ability to make high-profile speakers available to a wide audience, especially during such a difficult time.”
John says the webinars have given B+LNZ the opportunity to reach and interact with a wider range of people than they would through traditional extension methods such as field days and workshops.
Another highlight was the Ladies' Virtual Muster which was run over two weeks offering different time and speaker options. This replaced the Ladies' Lunches held annually in many regions, but attracted many more participants with over 500 attending. Speakers included popular celebrity chef Nadia Lim and The Lady Butcher.
Nationally, B+LNZ has also established a new National Webinar series covering topics of national interest to farmers such as Essential Freshwater Policy, Emission’s Trading Scheme and an update on Taste Pure Nature, which have also proven very popular and are likely to continue in the long-term.
B+LNZ’s Head of Communications, Rowena Hume, says the national webinar series has already proven to be a really effective way to update farmers on B+LNZ’s non-extension activities.
At a regional level, B+LNZ’s regional team have run online events such as Farming for Profit and drought support webinars.
Western North Island Extension Manager Jason Griffin says he has had very good engagement and positive feedback on all the online events he has run over the past 12 weeks.
These were particularly popular during Level 4, with other 100 people joining a Blake Holgate market update. While there is now more competition for people’s time, Jason says the online events have continued to attract good numbers and while they are regionally focused, they have been attracting farmers from around the country.
“It has allowed us to cast the net a bit wider, as location doesn’t determine whether a person can attend or not.”
All of Jason’s webinars have been edited, turned into a video and put on the B+LNZ website. This allows farmers to access these at their leisure and link into related resources.
Jason says from a social point of view, he knows many farmers are chomping at the bit to get back to field days and workshops while others are enjoying the online webinars and events.
Looking to the future shape of extension delivery, John says the extension team will be taking what has been learnt over the past 12 weeks and adding online events into the mix when they are considering the delivery method they need to employ to get the best outcome.
“It really does depend on what we are trying to achieve, the audience we want to target and what we want to deliver, but the online forum has proven to be a good way for B+LNZ to showcase what the organisation is doing to support farmers.”
However, he says, B+LNZ recognises the importance of social connection and the need for farmers to get-together to connect and network at face-to-face events. These have resumed and will remain an important part of the whole mix of extension activities to help maximise B+LNZ’s reach to farmers.