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Field days

OVERVIEW

Field days are special events. A series of demonstration skits, speeches and other activities focused on a central theme are strung out over the course of a day to promote new practices and bring recognition to successful farmers and agricultural workers in a particular area. The prevailing mood is festive and the atmosphere is not unlike that of a country fair. The point of such a day is to call attention to new and exciting developments in agriculture.

This is done by inviting special guests, cooking a big meal, preparing a day's worth of interesting presentations to watch and take part in and bringing in perhaps some musicians for everyone's enjoyment. It is not expected that farmers leave a field day having learned a great deal of specific information. The meal and the other special features tend to work against that possibility. It is hoped instead that farmers leave with new interests and new concepts of what is possible after seeing what their neighbors have been able to accomplish in their work.

Field days can be used in several different contexts. On a purely local level, a field day can be staged through the collective efforts of a group of agricultural workers and a handful of farmers for other people in town. In this case, it serves as a glorified result demonstration. Its chief function is to generate interest within the community, but it can also work to raise the status of the agricultural workers and innovative farmers in the area.

A second use of a field day moves beyond a single village to neighboring vilages. Invitations are sent to a group of farmers in an area that the extension agent feels would be well-suited for an expansion of his extension efforts. In this case, the secondary benefit goes to the entire host community, which is viewed by its neighbors as being industrious and possessing of special levels of agricultural expertise.

The third situation appropriate for a field day involves Ministry of Agriculture and other government officials and celebrities from out of town. The intent in staging a field day for these people can be twofold. First, it is a chance for the agricultural workers in town to gain much needed recognition from their superiors. Second, it may be an opportunity for a town to lobby officials for additional services. In the latter case, a serious commitment to agriculture is demonstrated during the course of the day, and a well-articulated request for special attention brings the day to a close.

In all three of these cases, it is in the best interests of field day planners to create favorable impressions for their guests. Audience comfort and enjoyment and effective presentations are of utmost importance. The initial consideration is the selection of an appropriate and timely theme to suit the target audience, e.g. improvements in management practices for traditional (locally-and perennially-grown) crops. The next concern is to come up with a list and sequence of demonstrations, booths, activities and other events and feature devoted to the theme. This is followed by logistics, e.g., routing of guests through the course of the day, meals and refreshments, entertainment, and clean-up. A decision has to be made, for instance, to route quests through demonstrations in a single, large group in several smaller groups, or individually. This will depend on how large a turn-out is expected and how many people are involved in organizing the day. For all of the different tasks, responsibilities need to be clearly designated.

Highly orchestrated events such as these are especially prone to being upset by unforeseen problems. Contingency plans should be made for late arrivals, rain or slow moving groups. In general, field days tend to move more slowly than they are meant to. That being the case, it is often useful to choose someone to monitor the progress of the day overall. This person can than be responsible for setting any contingency plans in motion should they prove necessary.

The work involved in putting on a field day can be divided into stages. There are initial meetings at which decisions are made concerning field day topics, guests and the division of responsibilities among planners. These are followed by a period of early preparation during which presentations are rehearsed, invitations are sent out and meetings are held about routing of guests (see TOOLS section). Then come last minute preparations such as cooking, assembling materials for demonstrations and clearing brush from paths where guests will walk. Finally, the field day itself is held: someone greets the guests, demonstrations are given, a big meal is eaten, and someone thanks the guests for coming and sends them home while a clean-up crew goes to work. Follow-up contacts are then initiated and continued over the course of the next few weeks or months.

In everything that happens, the thrust of the day is enjoyment and excitement. To keep the appropriate tempo, then, individual presentations should not exceed half an hour and the entire sequence of activities before the day-ending feast should be completed in under three hours. Note that sufficient time is necessary at both the beginning and end of the day for guests to travel to and from their homes. This often means that special accomodations - water, shade, chairs - will be necessary to deal with extremes of weather.

ILLUSTRATION

A field day schedule:

POST HARVEST TECHNOLOGIES

Schedule

9:00-10:00 a.m.

Guests arrive from nearby villages.

10:00

Welcome by master of ceremonies.

10:30

Guided tours of demonstrations - Guests will be escorted in three groups around the village to observe the first of three sets of demonstrations:

   

I. Threshing and milling of grains

   

II. Drying of grains, vegetables and fruits

   

III. Storage of grains, vegetables and fruits

11:15

All three groups will meet for refreshments under the large cotton tree.

11:45

Groups will observe their second set of demonstrations.

12:30

Groups will observe their third set of demonstrations.

1:30

A meal will be served under the large cotton tree.

2:30

Closing remarks by the master of ceremonies

• A list of responsibilities to be covered by field day planners:

- Invitations

- Clear paths and standing/sitting area around demonstration sites (see below)

- Set up and moving of benches and chairs

- Master or Mistress of Ceremonies

- Guides

- Demonstrators

- Refreshments and water

- Troubleshooting

- Entertainment

- Meal preparation

- Clean-up

- Follow-up

• See Chapter Six MANAGEMENT for planning tools.

• See the previous subchapter for TOOL checklist for all kinds of demonstrations

Considerations in preparing a route for guests:

• Clear obstacles such as roots, stumps and rocks and cut back over-hanging branches.

• Cut the trail wide enough for two people to walk side by side.

• Clear an area around each demonstration larger than that which would fit the expected tour groups comfortably.

• Avoid trails that double back on each other in an "5" pattern so that demonstrations compete with each other for farmers' attention.

• Avoid steep and tiring trails.

• Build sturdy bridges over streams or marshy areas.

• Avoid areas that do not drain well.