Thinking outside the box with Thursday’s Sunbelt Ag Expo Field Day yielded positive results, says Chip Blalock, executive director of the Sunbelt Expo in Moultrie, Georgia. It went so good, the new-look drive-thru version may become the new normal.
“When you do something for the first time, you really don’t know what to expect,” Blalock said. “But when they were lined up at 8 this morning and trickled in; when they started filing in at 8 o’clock on through about 9:30, it’s exceeded our expectations and it’s exceeded expectations of the exhibitors also.”
This year’s field day had to be tweaked due to social distancing guidelines amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Instead of trams carrying visitors to each stop, attendees drove their own vehicles and listened to pre-recorded messages about the research being conducted. They also had the option to speak individually with each speaker.
“It’s almost unanimous with the exhibitors that they like the drive-thru version. It kind of qualifies the attendees coming through when they stop. They want to talk and do business,” Blalock said. “The good thing for us when we started having to think outside the box with COVID-19, we wanted to preserve the in-person part of field day, while maintaining the COVID-19 protocols. We think this hybrid approach with farmers coming through in their trucks, not getting out of their trucks, being far away from any reps in the field; between the video and asking questions, we feel like we’ve hit on something we’ll probably do again next year.
“If they want to spend three hours, they can spend three hours, if they want to spend an hour, they can spend an hour. I really think this is one of the silver linings of the pandemic. We’ve learned we can do field day another way and it’s pretty effective.”
University of Georgia and industry research were also selling points for attendees. During the tour of the 600-plus acre farm, spectators learned about cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans, grain sorghum, sunflowers and bermudagrass forages.
“What we’re doing out here is planning for future growing seasons. The research that we do and getting it into the hands of the field reps, getting it into the hands of the county agents, young farmer advisors; it’s vital to the future of agriculture,” Blalock said.