It is just about possible to enjoy a complete meal, including – for the health-conscious – one which meets the 5+A Day standards by wandering from generous Fieldays stand to stand, sampling their hand-outs.
Anne Smith, of Hawke’s Bay, samples and approves of sheep’s milk yoghurt jointly promoted by Sheep Dairy New Zealand and Massey University School of Management at Fieldays 2015.
Many of the exhibitors offers taste tests and others coffee too. Among those I sampled at the 2015 Mystery Creek event were sheep’s milk yogurt and toffee, kiwifruit smoothies, fresh apples and lemonade. Responsibly, if somewhat reluctantly, I passed on the fine malt whiskey and equally stunning wines.
For those who want something a little more substantial, and not eaten on the run, Fieldays has 40-plus vendors selling something for every taste from burgers to hotdogs, chips, whitebait fritters to dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and halal.
And so it should – walking around the grounds of the largest agricultural show in the Southern Hemisphere requires regular re-fuelling. And, of course, Fieldays is about food.
All that machinery big and small, all the clever technology – and there’s plenty of it, all the clothing, footwear, gadgets, fencing, smart information technology, even the Customs Department beagle dogs are all about food – improving or protecting its production and those who produce it.
This year will be no exception. Dairy prices may be depressed but confidence in its future remains positive – and Fieldays is a major fixture on most farming families’ annual events calendar.
If not in a position to buy, farmers can at least inform themselves of the latest technology waiting when times improve, or enjoy watching the action at the tractor pull and fencing competitions.
Even seeing Rural Bachelor contestants striving to impress through a range of events can be diverting and entertaining.
At every turn there is something to see from the latest in dairy milking technology to treatments for effluent, to water tanks, fencing, fertiliser, animal breeding technology, to tractors, machinery, cars, utes and clothing.
Despite declining dairy payouts and forecasts of gloom and doom in the rural sector, a total of 126,063 people attended the 2015 Fieldays. And, as every year, there’s the ‘Fieldays thing’ – the must-have item which every second person seems to be carrying or wearing.
Last year it was cow-ear headbands with personally-engraved ear tags which people wore in their thousands thanks to the team at LIC, who were kept busy stamping names into ear tags for queues of people. It was a great way to make sure you didn’t lose the kids – human ones that is.
Innovation is Fieldays’ strong point and every year there’s a chance for fledgling and established companies to display their latest inventions to the public.
During the 2015 opening ceremony, Prime Minister Key said innovation in the farming and science sector can lift New Zealand’s profitability.