Farmers urged to support regional field days
FARMERS are being urged to support regional agricultural field days, as difficult seasons across many regions impacting on patronage on many of Australia's best known machinery and farming expos. Executive director of the Tractor and Machinery Association of Australia, Richard Lewis, says that tough seasons impact everyone involved in agribusiness, not just farmers, and that a vivid reminder of that fact has been lower attendances at field days around the country in the past six months. “Specifically at the recent Wimmera Machinery Field Days held at Longerenong (in Victoria), I attended on Wednesday which “was better than yesterday” for most of the machinery exhibitors I spoke to,” Mr Lewis said. “The crowds were noticeably down on previous years, and the dust blowing in from the west in the afternoon, giving an indication as to why. The general interest pavilions were bustling with people looking at boarding school exhibits and workwear displays, but the machinery stands outside had what only could be described as a slow trickle of people flowing through them.” Mr Lewis said that last year had been a tough period seasonally for Horsham and surrounding Wimmera districts and that there had been little rain around so far in 2015. “To their credit, the field days committee have an excellent facility at Longerenong with clean and modern amenities, plenty of volunteers on hand marshalling gates, traffic and courier services and frankly there is little they can do about the season gone and the attendance over the three days,” he said. “Farmers facing another tough season don't need to go to a field day to look at what they can't afford.” Mr Lewis said a challenge for field days organisers was finding ways to ensure that farmers and other patrons continued to attend their events. He said many new products on display are generally launched overseas before their Australian launch and information is abundant on the web for seeking out details on every product shown at the field days.
“The local (Wimmera) dealers such as O'Connors, Emmetts, William Adams and Traction Ag are all in attendance with larger sites displaying millions of dollars of equipment, as are the local manufacturers and importers looking to display their machinery,” Mr Lewis said. “Of course the dealers will continue to support their local area, but I'm not so sure about the other suppliers. I spoke to one international supplier that only weeks ago held a dealer and customer conference on the outskirts of Melbourne, showcasing their entire product range with representatives from the factories in attendance and demonstrations for customers. “This came at quite an expense, but the justification is in the fact that these are captive audiences and they are able to get their message across a lot easier than attendance at a field days – not to mention the cost of exhibiting at 10 field days across the country each year.” Mr Lewis argued that if farmers don't attend their local field days, then the exhibitors will eventually begin to spend their dollars on digital platforms and captive events to ensure they get to their customers more effectively. “Where field days where once 100 per cent of the marketing spend of a machinery business, this number is diminishing and would not account for 50pc these days,” he said. “There needs to be a rethink on field days – fewer of them, less often and more targeted towards the machinery exhibitors to get some bang for their buck. Field days have their place in the machinery marketing process, but I'm not sure for how long if the crowds (and specifically farmers) don't show up.”