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Pulling into a muddy car park on the opening Wednesday of Fieldays 2017 with an icy cold gale blasting rain almost horizontally against the windshield it seemed that the weather gods were not smiling on Mystery Creek this time around.
Thankfully, the hill overlooking the event took the worst of the weather and things were much calmer down in the valley, with the sun breaking through the gloom by mid-morning.
The remaining days of the event had reasonable weather which no doubt contributed to the record-high attendance number of 133,588 overall visitors, almost 3,000 more pairs of gumboots than last year and exceeding the event’s six yearly average by 4,800.
Day Three, the Friday, as usual proved the most popular, with 40,104 visitors through the gate, the highest figure on record in for a single day at Fieldays.
Major players in attendance included ITM, Bunnings, PlaceMakers, BuildLink, Dewalt, Accent Tools, Makita, Bosch, NZ Safety Blackwoods as well as group home builders Jennian Homes, Lockwood Homes and Signature Homes between them showcasing new sites, products and promotions to great effect on the day.
STAND HOLDERS REPORT STRONG INTEREST
Among the stand holders spoken to, most were in good spirits reporting good sales and high levels of enquiry even on the first day.
Since the event ended, early reports from exhibitors have been indicating strong sales with some even exceeding targets in their first trading day and others reporting dramatic increases in sales after the first morning’s poor weather improved.
The positive atmosphere at this year’s event could very well be linked to reported increases in the confidence of New Zealand’s farmers.
Based on Rabobank’s quarterly Rural Confidence Survey, farmer confidence is currently at +54%, an increase of 27% on March this year and the highest confidence level since the very first Survey in 2003.
The strongest shifts in confidence came from sheep and beef farmers, who attributed their optimism to improvements in commodity prices, while dairy farmers were the most likely to reinvest in technology, or new equipment after several tight years.
In fact some of the most impressive stalls this year showcased some serious innovation in agricultural, and particularly dairy, technology with robotics and automation putting in a strong showing at some of the larger stalls.
WHERE WERE ALL THE INNOVATIONS?
An interesting addition to this year’s event that showed the organisers’ commitment to the wider rural community was the Fieldays Health Hub, “an interactive and non-threatening space designed to educate and inform Fieldays visitors about health issues affecting rural communities.”
The project addresses concerns that people in rural communities often have poorer health outcomes compared to their urban contemporaries with isolation, lack of GPs and work pressure all contributing factors to this problem.
If I was to name one small quibble about this year’s event it would be that the normally varied Innovations Tent that showcases forward-thinking inventions had a more distinctly farm-focused bent than in some previous years, with very few stalls showing anything of interest for the hardware channel.
This minor niggle aside, this year’s Fieldays 2017 was definitely one of the best ever with high turnout, healthy sales and a good mix of stalls encouraging a wide range of people through the gates.