NOTICE: Hard copies of the Australian New Crops Newsletter are available from the publisher, Dr Rob Fletcher. Details of availability are included in theAdvice on Publications Available.
Members of the Queensland Graingrowers Association (QGGA) approached the organisers of the First Australian New Crops Conference with a proposal to hold an information day for growers, in conjunction with the conference.
A firm of consultants, Gordon Stone and Associates, PO Box 7642, Toowoomba Mail Centre, 4352 (076 393 366) was engaged to manage the function, in association with the grower committee; Gordon Stone has developed, and manages a series of technology tran sfer activities - Meat Profit Days - throughout Australia.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation supported the function, as a component of the First Australian New Crops Conference, under the auspices of its Technology Adoption Proposals. Other sponsorship was provided by the Queensland Graingrowers Association, Grains Research Foundation, The University of Queensland and a number of local businesses.
The objectives of the New Crop Options Day were to inform growers about new crops, to make growers aware of current new crop research activities and to provide information that was of practical use. Researchers were briefed to provide details to allow growers to investigate markets, returns and management issues as they related to individual enterprises.
The function was able to capitalise on the wide range of speakers available at the conference. It used a "sideshow-alley" technique of providing the information and offered a range of follow-up options. These options included a take-home booklet with n otes from most of the speakers and contact names and phone numbers for further information and the establishment of mini-cooperatives.
A crucial feature of the planning of this function was to ensure that it remained a grower initiative.
Over 400 people paid $20 (members of the QGGA) or $30 (non-members) to attend the New Crop Options Day. Both personal and survey feedback indicated a high level of satisfaction with the event. Even though the event commenced at 8.30 am, at least 200 pe ople were still in attendance for the closing session at 4.30 pm. This indicated a clear interest in the outcomes of the New Crop Options Day.
Short plenary presentations, using specifically identified speakers, introduced the day, covering such topics as marketing, business plans, the choice of a new crop, getting started, etc.
The major part of the day, from 11.00 am until 4.00 pm, followed the "sideshow-alley" technique, that is, it encouraged informal interaction. Eight speaking sites were strategically located (one in each corner of the Pittsworth Showground Auditorium an d two at each end of two large marquees outside) so that growers could easily move between these "attractions". Static displays were located between the speaking sites.
The sites were identified as Pulses 1; Pulses 2; Herbs and Essential oils; Medicinals; Flowers and Fibres; Fruit, Nuts and Vegetables; Grower-initiated Marketing and Market Opportunities. Each site had four speakers.
Presentations at the eight "sideshows" were managed concurrently and each speaker was required to speak for 8-10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of questions from the group listening. After each speaker's 15 minutes, the speaker moved to a display area and was available for individual consultation for the next 45 minutes, after which the presentation was repeated, etc. In this manner, there were four speakers in rotation at each site, each speaker gave 5 presentations at hourly intervals and was availab le for individual consultation between each of these presentations.
Growers were able to choose the crops they wished to investigate and to investigate 20 crops during the day. Alternatively they could restrict themselves to certain crops and study these in depth by personal interaction with the speaker and a closer in spection of the static displays.
Around 70 people attended a formal group marketing discussion session at 3pm. A high level of interest was displayed in such a concept at this meeting and in the feedback survey (85% of 118 replies) conducted on the day.
From the feedback survey, the new crops of greatest general interest to growers, in decreasing order of interest, included fibres, olives, sesame, ginseng, pulses, herbs and jojoba.
However, it was significant that all 32 speakers had audiences for each of their five presentations throughout the day and crowds remained in the display areas throughout.
When asked to comment generally about the event, only 9 out of 118 comments were negative. These comments related to the noise level in the building early in the day, (which was overcome once sound amplification was reduced), and to there being insuffi cient time at sessions.
Only one negative comment related to the speakers or their messages.
On the other hand, many of the speakers spoke formally in the "sideshows" and informally at the static displays for at least five hours with little relief, such was the interest of the growers and the enthusiasm of the speakers.
Despite an intensive sponsorship program, where over 35 organisations were approached for financial support, little sponsorship income was obtained from most organisations targeted.
This may be due to the innovative, and therefore untried, nature of the program and a relatively short lead-time. It has been recommended that, in future, a lead-time of 10-12 months would be appropriate.
The "sideshow alley" model has been adopted for a further New Crops Options Day in another state and a series of Grain Expo Days, planned with a view to bringing research findings on particular topics to growers.
The take-home booklet from the New Crops Options Day included information from 27 speakers and some copies are still available from the Queensland Graingrowers Association, PO Box 360, Toowoomba, 4350 for A$25.00.
Several of the articles included in the take-home booklet are reproduced below with kind permission of the facilitators of the day.
Any claims made by authors in the Australian New Crops Newsletter are presented by the Editors in good faith. Readers would be wise to critically examine the circumstances associated with any claims to determine the applicability of such claims to their specific set of circumstances. This material can be reproduced, with the provision that the source and the author (or editors, if applicable) are acknowledged and the use is for information or educational purposes. Contact with the original author is probably wise since the material may require updating or amendment if used in other publications. Material sourced from the Australian New Crops Newsletter cannot be used out of context or for commercial purposes not related to its original purpose in the newsletter
Contact: Dr Rob Fletcher, School of Land and Food, The University of Queensland Gatton College, 4345; Telephone: 07 5460 1311 or 07 5460 1301; Facsimile: 07 5460 1112; International facsimile: 61 7 5460 1112; Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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originally created by:GK; latest update 6 June 1999 by: RF