While the easing of the Covid traffic light settings will allow more people to attend outdoor events and raise the indoor limit to 200 people, it's a case of too little, too late for National Fieldays.
Farmers were ready for a day or two away from the farm to catch up with frieds or colleagues after a gap of two years.
The 53rd Fieldays at Mystery Creek saw close to 133,000 visitors head through the gates. It was a particularly busy day on Friday (June 18) - when the car parks closed just after lunch - hitting a record of 44,300 people. Overall, the mood was buoyant, no doubt helped by a high milk payout for the current season and an $8-plus forecast for the next.
Manufacturers and distributors reported good orders, while also working through the problems of low stock levels. Ongoing logistics problems, including massively increased freight costs and more recent hikes in raw material prices, will undoubtedly lead to price increases for end products.
Reports of sales being "shaken on" during the event, leads one to wonder how many had actually been done before the Fieldays, only to be confirmed during the week. It's hard to believe that someone walks onto a site and this leads to an impulse purchase of a $150,000 tractor or machine. Likewise, the 2020 season, without Fieldays, led to increased sales, bringing into question Fieldays' claim to being the conduit to $500 million of activity.
Exhibitors will be looking at results over the coming months, before making a decision whether they will attend a 2022 event. Many will be back driven by FOMO - the fear of missing out.
Power Farming Group managing director Brett Maber was upbeat about the event.
"Our relationship with Fieldays goes back over 50 years, when my grandfather Laurie Maber turned up with a tent that he brought from Morrinsville," he told Rural News.
"Now we operate in New Zealand, Australia and the US and employ over 400 people, but we've never forgotten our roots.
"We love to attend Fieldays as we like to support local - because we are local. At the same time, we also love farmers, so this year's event is our way of saying thanks, after the tough year we've all been through."
Farmer sentiment was largely positive about the event, apart from traffic queues getting into Fieldays and a long trek across the paddocks to get back out. The more pressing concerns were the disappointment at the Government’s apparent lack of understanding about “real world” farming. Topics like clean rivers, nitrogen caps, carbon, methane and winter grazing were subjects that most agreed needed addressing. However, most conceded that goals had to be reached in a logical way and over a longer period.
The timing of Fieldays also brought with it a further wringing of hands and scratching of heads, with the latest Clean Car Scheme, that sets out to penalise those using utes and SUV’s, while rewarding those who buy electric cars by way of a rebate of around $8,000.
That frustration centres around the lack of awareness by the Government that there is currently no electric version of utes – the vehicle of choice for farmers, rural professionals, tradies, and some Labour MPs.