THIS week I’m in ‘The Land of The Long White Cloud’, across the ditch in New Zealand. I’ve been asked back to Fieldays, the biggest rural event in the southern hemisphere, just outside Hamilton.
Of course it was this time last year, that I - along with two other Aussie men and four Kiwi boys - lost the ‘Golden Gumboot’ to local kid, Simon Washer, in the Rural Bachelor of the Year competition.
It's a week of fierce rivalry in various farm tasks like a tractor sled pulling, block splitting and cow judging. And whilst Facebook shows only a marginal improvement in Simon's marital status a year on, I’m attending for different reasons.
It is worth noting there’s only one Australian up for the challenge of battling out this year's Rural Bachelor competition: Josh Gilbert. (I have some advice for Josh on women later in this piece.)
With video camera in hand, I’ve been asked to hunt down some colourful comment from international guests, agribusiness leaders, the public and the hundreds of volunteers that make it all happen. What awaits me is unknown, but the education, passion and culture that saturated my experience from the farming sector last year has me chomping at the bit for the next week to unfold.
This years theme for Fieldays is: "Managing resources for a competitive advantage".
Fieldays isn’t just the biggest south of the equator for its 900-plus exhibitors and their 120,000-plus attendance figures, but in vision and international leadership.
Their target is to be an international agribusiness meeting place - and they’re on the right track with over 500 international guests set to come through the gates.
Thirty-seven international delegations will move through the 155-hectare site to use new private meeting rooms where government leaders and industy professionals will share ideas, opportunities - and God knows what else! The Argentineans, Japanese, Canadians and South Koreans will be here, just to name a few. There’ll even be UN Ambassadors attending.
Fieldays will also be home to 54 exhibitors from around the globe.
The Australian High Commission is a major sponsor of the Agribusiness component and I’ll be very interested to see how many Australians are here. Not just those here to see the latest and greatest in dairy, wool or farm management, but those here to talk business with these leaders and markets that are for a week, so close to our home.
This year there is a live automated milking station, which is one of the countless outstanding efforts that brands go to with their sites.
Exhibitors aside, my favourite areas of Fieldays are: The Fieldays Theatre where seminars and forums on topics like farm productivity, agricultural economic outlooks and movements in agricultural R&D are discussed ‘Kiwi's Best Kitchen’ - a kitchen theatre that’s one of the busiest marquees on site. Local food is a must and Josh Emett, renowned local celebrity chef, will showcase skills and recipes three times a day around other chefs for the four days Fieldays Innovations, an area home to really cool stuff that’ll stretch your mind and leave you smiling. Up to 80 local innovators will compete for three award categories; Grass roots (ideas and prototypes), Launch NZ (for products being launched locally) and International (products going global). There’s some awesome ‘you beaut’ practical outfits through to cutting edge technology that will blow your socks off.
Many exhibitors and companies use Fieldays to launch new businesses or concepts, and this year a little bird tells me NZX Agri, the publisher of New Zealand Farmers Weekly and my favourite, Young Country magazine, are launching the ‘Land – Your Dream Job’ website. The website has been set up to provide a growing parade of resources and case studies to attract and inform the brightest and best into the primary sector.
As mentioned earlier, Josh Gilbert from Nabiac, NSW, has arrived to compete in some skilful - and some less skilful but hilarious - heats this year. I’ll be there in full support for Josh, and as a rural bachelor veteran I have just one piece of advice: before they send you out on a date mate, just make sure the ladies have a full mouth. And for those with sick minds, that’s a sheep farming expression for having a full set of teeth!
So stay tuned: I’ll be keeping you up to date with images, gossip and information throughout the week.