After a torrid season featuring cyclones, a wet summer and the effects of ongoing geopolitical and economic issues on commodity prices, Fieldays is a chance for farmers to get off the farm and recharge their batteries.
Fieldays chief executive Peter Nation said there seems to be widespread mental fatigue, and getting off farm for even a day could give the rural community the positive mental boost it needs.
The four-day farming event starts this week after returning to its traditional mid-June window after organisers held a one-off summer event in December.
Rural New Zealand needs something to feel good about after this tough 12 months, Nation said.
“To come to Fieldays – it’s exciting, you can see some new things, connect with people, talk with people, and I think that’s good for the soul.
“People need to get off farm and get away from their businesses or homes and come and get away for a few days.”
Nation said the most consistent feedback he gets from attendees is how much they have enjoyed their time at the event, even if it was only to talk to a machinery dealer or other exhibitor about a future purchase that will involve capital expenditure.
The site at Mystery Creek is a hive of activity in the final few days ahead of its opening day on June 14 as exhibitors put the last touches on their sites and staff make final preparations.
Nation said there are more than 1100 exhibitors this year with numbers back close to 2017 levels.
“The exhibitors have turned up.
“The feedback we have got is that people are excited we are back in June and that time of the year really suits them.”
Assuming the weather forecasts are correct and there are four days of sunshine, Nation expects Fieldays to be well attended.
“We got some new exhibitors that haven’t been there before. This year we have Italy exhibiting and they have never been.”
He suspected it is a result of New Zealand’s free trade agreement with the European Union, with Fieldays being seen as a trade opportunity.
There are other international delegations, particularly from Northern Europe.
“The world’s re-opening and what I do think covid told international markets is that they are looking for food quality and safety and a lot of them have come to us to look at pastoral farming.”
Nation said a lot of that interest is driven by moves by governments and companies to reduce agricultural emissions.
There is also new agricultural machinery being shown, including grape and potato harvesters. This shows how the event is maturing, said Nation; it can no longer be pigeonholed as dairy only.
A large contingent of portable home suppliers are exhibiting, indicative of the housing shortage and need for farm staff, especially in the horticulture industry, he said.
“There’s layers and layers of opportunity in the event.”
The supply chain issues that many of the larger exhibiting companies have experienced over the past few years are also waning, giving them a lot more confidence in coming to the event.
Fieldays will have a new Sustainability Hub, which will give guidance to farmers around what is an increasingly complex subject, he said.
“That hub is an inaugural one and I think over time it will be like the other hubs and just get bigger.”
Given that it is an election year and with the event coinciding with a parliamentary recess, Nation expects it to be well attended by politicians across the political spectrum.
“The politicians will be out and about and it gives the public of New Zealand – whether it’s farmers, lifestylers or from town – [the chance to] run into a minister or MP and give your view.”
There are not too many other events globally that allow that type of exposure, he said.