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Cultivating Innovation

by fatweb

By Corazon Miller

Right in the heart of the Waikato’s green pastures, sits the ultimate launch pad for New Zealand’s cutting edge agricultural innovation – The Mystery Creek Events Centre. For four days each June the centre becomes an exhibition, competition and social networking site all rolled into one exciting package.

New Zealand’s National Agricultural Fieldays has, in its near half-a-century long history, become the “largest agribusiness exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere”.

CEO of the New Zealand National Fieldays Society Jon Calder, says this year’s show – its 44th – promises to be the biggest and best yet. “There are over 1,000 exhibitors coming and 1400 sites.” He says visitors will enjoy an abundance of exhibitions, demonstrations, seminars, competitions and stalls.

Agri must-sees

It’s a big playing field – but to help narrow down the choices for the indecisive here are a few of the must-sees.

Premier Feature: The theme for this year’s Premier Feature is the changing face of farming. Learn from the best; industry leaders who have strived to excel and maximise efficiency, despite challenging situations.

Innovation Centre: It is here where you can see the work of the Golden Standards contenders. Entrants to the competition are fighting for a $5000 innovations award. It is here where innovations are launched, kiwi ingenuity is recognised and agricultural creations and advancements are celebrated.

But to truly make the most of this once a year event, meandering through the myriad of other exhibits, witnessing the best in agribusiness, is the ultimate must.

Family must-visits

Agriculture isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so for these non-agri minds in the family there is still plenty to see and do; find some perfect additions to your home or eat a range of New Zealand’s best food – there is choice aplenty.

• The Rural Living Area. In need of an outdoor campfire? This is the place to go in search of everything you need to complement your rural lifestyle. Spread over 200 sites, both indoors and outdoors, there is plenty to see, try and buy.

• Kiwi Best is the niche area of New Zealand food and drink. It is a smorgasbord of tastes from meat, fruit and veg, dairy products, condiments, baked goods, oils, herbs and spices and beverages.

In Kiwi Best’s kitchen theatre is this year’s special guest, kiwi TV cook and traveller, Nici Wickes who is set to show off a repertoire of food using a selection of produce from the show – so turn up on an empty stomach and prepare to eat to your heart’s content.


A little history

The story of the Fieldays comes from a time when technological innovation was on the rise in the early 60s. For the history buffs interested in reading it from the mouth of the creators you can access it here:

For the rest here’s the bigpicture; On July 25th, 1966 whilst travelling in Britain on a Nuffield Scholarship, John Kneebone wrote to the Waikato Times Farming Editor, Pat Cuming; “Would it not be possible, with a little co-operation and co-ordination, to have the Ruakura Farmers’ Week and Waikato Winter Show coincide so that farmers could have an annual outing in Hamilton, New Zealand, as they do at the UK Royal Agricultural Show at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire? A little imagination could make a really big affair of it.”

John points out in his excerpt about the origins of fieldays; change was in the air. “The world was changing and patronage at such events [farming festivals] were waning. I had the word, re-invention, for the winter farmer festival that I recalled as a boy, buzzing around in my head…I didn’t have the luxury of time or the means to promote the scheme I had envisioned, but Pat Cuming kept the idea alive in the public mind through his newspaper column.

“But for Pat Cuming’s persistence, I don’t believe the idea would have become airborne. I harbour a bit of guilt, that being so much younger than he, I’m still around, getting the credit which belongs to Pat’s memory. Yep, I floated a hairy idea, but it was others who did the hard yards that brought it to fruition.”

So hairy ideas, persistence and the hard work of numerous Waikato men have transformed into today’s New Zealand National Fieldays Society – the masters behind the genius of the biggest agricultural event below the equator.

Today’s site at Mystery Creek was purchased in 1971 and over the years has undergone considerable growth and redevelopment. It now proudly hosts an abundance of indoor and outdoor space and multi-functional facilities. Still owned by the society that continues to uphold its original vision, thanks to a committee of dedicated volunteers and event management team who work in harmony, reporting through to a passionate board of directors.


The NZ National Agricultural Fieldays event remains its flagship event, but more and more events are being added to its list, including a Transport and Heave Equipment Expo, joint operation of the Waikato Boat Fishing and Leisure Show plus whole range of private, public and business events.

And Jon promises it will only getter better, with the society’s vision of producing the “best multi-functional events centre”.

So come along – you be the judge.

Historic points

• Fieldays was first conceptualised in 1968 by a group of local Waikato men
• Fieldays was first held at Te Rapa Racecourse in 1969 with a budget of $10,500
• The first Fieldays event attracted an estimated 15,000 people
• The event was moved to the land known as Mystery Creek in 1971
• The Mystery Creek Pavilion and Mystery Creek Events Centre were created in 1995.

Recent times
Fieldays 2011 Statistics
• 2011 was the 43rd New Zealand National Agricultural Fieldays
• 98 acres of exhibition and demonstration space and 170 acres of car parking
• Official attendance (Wednesday – 26,476, Thursday – 32,935, Friday – 36,439, Saturday – 21,654)
• 117,495 across all four days. Fieldays 2010 Statistics
• 2010 was the 42nd New Zealand National Agricultural Fieldays
• 98 acres of exhibition and demonstration space and 170 acres of car parking
• Official attendance (Wednesday – 26,118, Thursday – 30,997, Friday – 37,095, Saturday – 28,139)
• 122,349 across all four days.

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