2020 has been a challenging year and TWiA has had to think creatively in order to stay connected with its members in trying times. If 2020 has taught us anything it is the importance of communication and connection with each other. TWiA has worked to provide avenues for members to continue to be connected and hear from each other. A number of initiatives were launched in order to make this happen, moving from face to face delivery to online, ensuring that ideas, support and knowledge could still be shared with those who need it. This has led to some firsts for the organisation and making connections with others that may not have happened otherwise.
TWiA has continued to communicate with members through the online newsletter throughout COVID, however has also innovated creating alternative pathways for communication and learning through Paddock Talks. TWiA recognised early on in COVID that members were not able to connect or access their usual supports and Paddock Talk was one way to foster connections within the community. The series has touched on a range of topics bringing together stakeholders from Rural Alive and Well (RAW), Rural Business Tasmania, Safe Farms, Government and local councils. This provided an opportunity for members to access information directly from those making decisions and offering support, while creating a forum for discussion. More recently Paddock Talks have focused on recovery and on young farmers, connecting members from Rural Youth Tasmania and Young Agricultural Professionals Network with the Cumbria Young Farmers in the UK.
TWiA launched the #BuyTasmanianFirst campaign early on during COVID to emphasis the importance of supporting local producers who had seen their normal supply chains dramatically altered. TWiA identified the significant need for producers to still be able to move their product and connect with consumers, given avenues such as restaurants and farmer's markets had been closed. Recognising the need for producers to pivot and potentially access new avenues for sales. TWiA, in partnership with KingThing Marketing, created On Farm to Online to support producers in making their business ready to move into a digital space. As part of TWiA's #BuyTasmaniaFirst campaign the webinar aimed to help farmers become confident with establishing themselves online and so connect with consumers who want to support local producers.
While COVID restrictions meant it wasn't possible to meet face to face for the 2020 Gathering, TWiA hosted the Gathering in the Cloud, a first for the organisation. The event took place on the 23rd of May 2020 with a fantastic line up of speakers – Pip Courtney from ABC Landline, Todd Babiak from Brand Tasmania and Minister Guy Barnett opened proceedings. Attendees were also treated to a virtual farm tour from Circular Ponds Farming. Again, TWiA wanted to provide an avenue for members to continue to connect even when it wasn’t possible to meet face to face. All the speakers highlighted the importance of storytelling, providing an authentic experience that can change minds. It was an engaging and enlightening afternoon, made possible through technology and TWiA’s drive to stay connected with those it supports.
It has been a challenging year to be involved in communications and training with so much change. However, it has highlighted TWiA’s ability to adapt and change to continue to meet member’s needs. From hosting the Gathering in the Cloud to bringing organisations and people together for Paddock Talks, TWiA has continued to stay connected with its members throughout the challenges 2020 has brought.