The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It's the most wonderful time of the year... and we're not talking about Christmas - we're talking about the biggest, baddest Farmers' Field Day to hit the streets of Panda!

Around mid-April last year, we held our inaugural Farmer’s Field Day to the delight of many local farmers, chiefs, agricultural vendors, and party-crashing soda lovers. We didn’t know what to expect, or really even whom to expect, but over 100 of Panda’s “see and be seen” farmer crowd turned up.  Even the Paramount Chief of Panda graced us with his presence, much to the delight of #TeamTomatoJos.

 Farmers' Field Day, 2015

Farmers' Field Day, 2015

 So this year, we decided to make our 2016 field day even bigger and better.

 Our new digs

Our new digs

Ok, not yet, but...

In Panda, they have a saying: ain't no party like a Tomato Jos party - ok, actually no one says that, it's self-proclaimed, but we're actively working towards it.  So in order to make sure we had a full house, we started sending out invitations for this year’s event to the twenty-something neighboring villages two weeks before the assigned date. The Paramount Chief was then selected through a simple process of elimination to be our only honorable guest, as he narrowly edged out Paris Hilton. It’s not that she was busy – really.  We just didn’t think that her likely address to the audience (“that’s hot”) would add much.  Of course it’s hot.  We are in the dry season, Paris. 

The next step was sourcing soda, chairs, and canopies from the Panda market. This took more time than #TeamTomatoJos had anticipated. First, the soda salesperson would not sell to us unless we could give him as many empty glass bottles as the number of topped (full) ones that we were willing to buy from him. Second, canopy and chair rentals are not easy to come by in Panda. These two factors combined to drag our acquisitions onto the last day.

On the morning of the field day, our team knew it was do or die - we had to have everything in place before mid-morning. We ended up securing chairs and two full canopy sets from a local church (yes, folks, we got Jesus on our side), and our soda friend, charmed by potential history makers on his doorstep, eventually gave in and allowed us to buy drinks from him.

[Did someone say fun fact?] Not many people know this, but setting up a canopy is actually a tricky business – it’s a bit of a cross between putting puzzle pieces together and building a sand castle. Luckily for us, we had seasoned hands on deck, and they came out pretty well.


A few early arrivals (local villagers) scattered across our grounds shortly after we raised the canopy, surveying our fields and the greenhouse while waiting for the event to kick off. This was a bit of a surprise to us because arriving early to an event is not commonplace in Nigeria; thirty minutes past the assigned time is normaly the best you can get out of your guests. But people seem to love Tomato Jos (and their warm soda) enough to make exceptions when it comes to us. 

The event kicked off at 11:30 AM, with speeches in English (with a translator) and Hausa (without a translator, to the consternation of the non-Hausa speakers) made by #TeamTomatoJos, our partner farmers, and a few vendors who snuck sales pitches into their demonstrations to the smallholder farmers in the audience.

 Ishaya and Mira addressing the crowd

Ishaya and Mira addressing the crowd

 Farmer Amos, bringing down the house

Farmer Amos, bringing down the house

 Wait, what did he just say...?

Wait, what did he just say...?

 Strong side-eye game from the wings, as the vendors take their turns (note the warm sodas, too)

Strong side-eye game from the wings, as the vendors take their turns (note the warm sodas, too)

Shortly after the demonstrations by the vendors, we gave our guests a comprehensive tour of the farm, our final act of the day. We made stops at different stations that we had set up around the farm to cater to the many diverse interests of our guests. Members of our team had been assigned to each area of the farm so someone would be available to answer whatever questions our visitors might have. The greenhouse got the most attention out of all the stops during the tour (due to the shade, maybe?), and a competent team of two matched the overwhelming demand quite competently.

 #TomatoTalk: Seedlings 101 with Chibuzo and Bala

#TomatoTalk: Seedlings 101 with Chibuzo and Bala

 Yes, that's a row of maize in our tomato field...

Yes, that's a row of maize in our tomato field...

It was, in retrospect, a long day but not at all tedious. Yes, there might have been some frustrating moments amid the final stages of procurement, but they were all worth the fond memories that we created subsequently – and this guy gets my point:

 

 Innocent marked our Field Day "10 over 10" - woohoo!

Innocent marked our Field Day "10 over 10" - woohoo!

Ok folks, that's it for now! Stay tuned on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more adventures from #TeamTomatoJos,  because every day something wild and wonderful happens...