City girl goes to Fieldays….

Fieldays

Attracting over 100,000 visitors, from an average of 38 different countries, the National Fieldays is in it’s its 46th year and is the largest agricultural event in the Southern Hemisphere.

As a born & bred city girl, who’s never set foot on a farm, I was of course, the obvious choice to send along to Fieldays!

Having never been before, I must admit I did have a few misconceptions about the event, which by the end of the day, I’m glad to say were completely wrong. From wondering how I would survive perusing farm equipment for hours, to wishing I could come back the next day…

Here’s a few reasons why you should go to Fieldays  (even if you know nothing about agriculture or farming like me)

It’s not all about cows:

Misconception #1 out the window. From the moment I arrived, I was blown away with the scale of the event. I could see from the map in my programme that there were lots of exhibitors (more than 900 in fact!), but actually seeing it in real life was impressive…. and a bit overwhelming.

Yes, there were plenty of farming products & machinery, but also everything else from cars, trucks, tractors, boats, spa pools, fireplaces, furniture & homeware, toys, clothing and not to mention some great food and beverage.  I thought I had planned my day well, but I probably only got to see half of what I wanted to.

A big hit was the Kiwi’s Best Kitchen marquee which had people streaming through all day and played host to demonstrations from Master Chef Josh Emett and packed out with food exhibitors where you could sample everything from homemade preserves and condiments, gourmet cheese and meats, and some (very delicious) port & (also very good) lemoncello.

cooking demo

The display areas:
Having been to many a trade show, I was expecting 3 x 3 meter partitioned stands, and while Fieldays did have it’s fair share, the creativity and effort put into many of the exhibition areas was impressive and a real highlight. One of my favourites: The Ford off-road test drive track:

4WD 4WD2

The shows and demos:

While I missed the Suzuki Extreme Air motorbike jumping (track was too wet), there were plenty of demonstrations and exhibitions to pique anyone’s interest.  The Westpac Rescue helicopter flew in for a demo rescue, winching a patient to safety. The Ag Art Wear Awards offered an exciting fashion showcase. There were cooking demonstrations, lamb boning demonstrations, fencing, wood chopping, trained dogs doing impressive tricks and something I found surprisingly entertaining…. tractor pulling.  It might be day-to-day work for many farmers, but for a city girl like me, seeing these huge machines being maneuvered around with ease (in the rain!), was a sight to behold.

agart helicopter

The farming machinery: Yes, the farming machinery! What at first I was dreading, was actually very intriguing and the technology behind them impressive. Even if most of the time i had no idea what they did, they either looked really cool, or really funny. This was both…

feeder

The deals: While I was not the target market for the very latest in milking machines, there were plenty of deals to be had. I was determined to buy some gumboots (even tiny backyards in the city get muddy!) but i should’ve taken the advice of my workmates and purchased some before Fieldays, because the walk across paddocks from my car, to the entry gates left me ankle deep in mud at times. Now I know for next year…..

gummies

There’s still a day left to experience all that is Fieldays 2014. Check out the website for online tickets, purchase at the gate or start planning your 2015 visit. I know I am.

What: Fieldays 2014
When: 11 – 14 June, 2014
Where:  Mystery Creek Events Centre,  125 Mystery Creek Road, Hamilton, New Zealand.
Visit: www.fieldays.co.nz

A first-timer’s account of Fieldays

When the boss suggested that this new Hamiltonian ought to check out Fieldays, no nasty looking frost nor lack of gumboots was going to make me say no.

Fieldays is an iconic Waikato event. Strike that – it’s an iconic Kiwi event. At the minimum it gives city slickers like me a chance to take an x-ray of our economic backbone. As a bonus, they have miniature horses.

For four days Mystery Creek is transformed into a bustling city – as you can see from their photo below. Don’t worry about getting lost; there are maps, and the Creek is divvied up into roads based on the alphabet. (Gotta say, K Road wasn’t at all like I expected.)

Mystery Creek Fieldays

It may have been a school day but I saw plenty of kids there – often with their families, many others in school trips, and, well, there were bound to be some truants there too. Regardless of age, everyone had one thing in common – they seemed to be having a fun time.

And how could we not. There is plenty for farmers there – the latest machinery, specials on essential farm stuff, sheep that poop without needing to be dagged. For the record: ‘marbles’ and ‘hand grenades’ good; ‘plops’, ‘slops’ and ‘scours’ bad. Very bad. Where was I? Oh yes – Fieldays is not just for farmers. It has a little something for everyone.

On a learning mission? Most of the universities have come to boast about their latest achievements. I had a great talk with Dr Kim Pickering from the University of Waikato about their project turning chicken feathers into a strong, biodegradable fibre. Possible uses include insulation and, perhaps in time, boat hulls. I suggested they could make some nifty kitchen utensils from them too. She was very polite.

If you’re there to get a pulse on the rural property market, many of the big real estate companies are in attendance. The ones I visited had plenty of farms and lifestyle properties listed, and if I would have been drooling over them if I hadn’t just learned about dagging. A timely report by REINZ shows the rural market to be ‘solid’ with sales, prices and morale largely on the up.

Looking for a dream home? I came across Cabbage Tree Cottages, a business that builds beautiful timber houses across New Zealand. Their show home at Fieldays was a more hollowed-out version but had the essentials, including a kitchen sink and wine cupboard. Garry from Cabbage Tree told me most of their creations are used as holiday houses – and if I could stick one up in Golden Bay tomorrow, I would.

After some action? The dog show and wood chopping were fun of course, but I found the tractor pulling strangely hypnotic. This ‘sport’ consists of a tractor dragging another tractor as far as it could while yet another tractor drove in front, raking the ground. It was kind of like curling, but with tractors.

I sadly missed out on seeing Hoof Ball – soccer for horses – but it’s safe to say they would have put up a better showing against New Caledonia. I did, however, manage to ride the mechanical bull. For three seconds. Over two attempts.

The rodeo might not be suitable for restless kids – but I know what is. Cute animals! From the overly happy goat, to the always entertaining alpacas and, yes, to the irresistible miniature horsies, there was no shortage of smiles on faces young and old.

Miniature horse Fieldays

In fact there was no shortage of faces full stop. 117,000 people attended in 2011, and numbers are expected to exceed that this time. Here’s another figure to whistle at: last year’s event gave the economy a $450 million boost.

The vibe I got from people this year is one of positivity grounded in realism. Like the rest of the country the rural sector has its share of challenges and opportunities. Being a farmer is a lot like being a rodeo cowboy: you have to be resilient and adaptable to the constantly changing conditions. Otherwise, you’re bound to face-plant in spectacularly embarrassing fashion.

If you have never been to Fieldays, I highly recommend changing that. You can head down before 5pm today and/or 8am-5pm Saturday. Buy your tickets online or at the gate.