The South Island Dairy Event (SIDE) is one of the biggest dairy events of the year. As if that isn’t reason enough to get along, SIDE event chairman Simon Topham talks about what farmers can expect at this year’s event.

What inspired the theme, ‘Creating Our Tomorrow’, for this year’s SIDE?

A number of challenges are facing the sector and at times it can be hard for some farmers to see a future in dairy. But the future is bright. That’s why we chose the theme ‘Creating Our Tomorrow’. There is an opportunity for us to shape the future of dairy and continue to drive change rather than wait for regulations to force us to evolve. Many farmers have been doing this for a long time, but there are some that need help joining the journey.

We also wanted to remind farmers to reflect on what they’ve achieved over the last decade and be proud of how far we’ve come. We’ve made some huge improvements to the way we farm and, while we’re continuing our journey to be more sustainable, we should pause to celebrate that.

What can farmers expect at this year’s event?

An opportunity to hear some inspiring and thought-provoking speakers and attend workshops on topics that have been identified as cutting edge and relevant by other farmers.

There’s also the chance to rub shoulders with passionate like-minded farmers and rural professionals that you may not normally get a chance to catch-up with.

What are you most excited about at this year’s SIDE?

It’s hard to pick just one thing!

In my opinion, one of the best things about SIDE is that it provides an opportunity for farmers to let their hair down and connect with others off-farm.

I’m looking forward to taking my team to BrightSIDE, an afternoon taster session for new entrants to the sector to show them what SIDE is all about without having to commit to two days. We’re also using SIDE as a team building opportunity and will have a staff-do at the dinner.

I’m also pretty excited that we’ve got the Jordan Luck Band performing at the dinner. That’s pretty epic.

Who are the keynote speakers, and who are you most excited to hear speak?

We have an amazing line-up of keynote speakers including All Blacks mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka, former Paralympian blade runner Liam Malone, business leader Sue Lindsay and Golden Bay YOLO (you only live once) Farmer and blogger Wayne Langford.

I would say business leader Sue Lindsay is the dark horse. While she goes under the radar compared to some of the other speakers, she is renowned in business circles and the story of her journey is truly inspiring. I don’t want to give too much away, but I can guarantee she will push farmers to think outside the box.

Can you tell us a bit about the workshops, and what are your top picks?

This year we took a less-is-more approach with the workshops. In previous years we’ve run up to 30 workshops and decided to focus on 19 this time to do each one justice.

We have a wide range of topics covering everything from reducing greenhouse gases, inspiring your team, through to improving herd fertility.

I’m a real cows-and-grass type person, so I’m really interested in hearing the ‘Future Herd’ session that’s being presented by Waikato farmer Ben Watson talking about breeding healthier more productive cows.

I’m also really looking forward to the following workshops: ‘Connect locally and sell globally’, ‘Who’s the Boss?’ and ‘Nuffield Scholars Present’.


It’s a great excuse to get off farm, connect with others, and learn with your team.

We want everyone to leave feeling proud, inspired, and in the right mindset to take on any future challenges.