2020 was a terrible year in so many ways. Every shepherd I talk to has mentioned how they miss either the shows, the fiber festivals, or the farmers’ markets. Hopefully, things will change by the end of 2021. While we anxiously await a return to something closer to normal life, the American Romney Breeders Association board has chosen to look for unexpected opportunities during this time. That includes looking for new ways we can connect with each other and our members. We have learned a lot from fellow board members, our junior members, and other sheep organizations.
While we had no option but to cancel our in-person annual meeting, we were able to hold an online meeting. Nothing takes the place of getting together with fellow sheep breeders at a show or festival, but we found that members from across the country – who would not have been able to attend an in-person meeting – were able to join our virtual get together, and the meeting, with their participation, was really useful. During the weekend of our annual meeting, we were able to hold two online workshops: one about understanding moorit genetics within the Romney breed; and the other about different kinds of online fiber sales opportunities and how our members can take advantage of those opportunities. We also held a youth quiz bowl using a secure platform that some of our youth members helped us to both discover and figure out how to use! It was a lot of fun, and all of the participating youth “took home” prizes!
Even as we begin to plan for future in-person events, we have learned that there is most likely an ongoing opportunity to use online meetings and events within the American Romney Breeders Association – quarterly Zoom meetings sure beat quarterly conference calls!
Committee meetings using Zoom are a great way to share, and jointly work-on, documents, and allow us to put names and faces together as we get to know our new board members whom we haven’t met in person. We will also continue to offer educational workshops and panel discussions online, and then be able to post them on our website for future reference by our members.
We have learned about other innovative online opportunities from some of the state and county sheep organizations our members belong to, and we will definitely use some of what we have learned while we remain stuck in an online world. But like the rest of you, we are really looking forward to sheep shows, farmers’ markets, fiber festivals, and our local fairs!