Central Districts Field Days: now and then

Fondly known as ‘the best day off the farm all year’, Central Districts Field Days is gearing up for its 25th event. Now well-established and the largest regional field days in New Zealand, its roots stretch back to 1993 when it was introduced by Don Eade as an annual event.

If you visited Central Districts Field Days during any one of its 24 years you’re bound to find that a number of things don’t change:

  • Its location at Manfeild park, compelling a transformation from paddock to a mini town over a matter of days

  • The presence of farm machinery and tractors, hallmarks of the industry and to the people who come to see them

  • The thousands of visitors and hundreds of exhibitors, united in their passion for a thriving agricultural community

Equally, there are many ways you can see how the three-day event has grown up over time. Central Districts Field Days sales manager Cheryl Riddell explains how it started with 230 sites occupied by exhibitors, and has now grown to more than 550. The appetite from businesses to be a part of the event has only increased as word spread about the success others were having.

“As an example, Lumberland got 74 leads to go and quote on farm buildings during the last Central Districts Field Days, plus another 15 the following week,” Cheryl says.

“The opportunity Central Districts Field Days presents for businesses to connect with customers, and vice versa, is immense. It’s a great way for people to not only get what they need all in one place, but to have some fun in the process,” she adds.

This opportunity hasn’t gone unnoticed, with other events springing up to make the most of the ground swell in the region. Central Districts Field Days now rounds out NZ AgriFood Investment Week, which started in 2016, and follows the rural games which began in 2015.

Central Districts Field Days consistently attracts around 30,000 visitors every year. Its scale is such that there are even events held within the event - like the National Excavator Operator competition that has been at Central Districts Field Days right from the start. “The excavator competition is a lot more exciting than it may sound to some. Attempting to maneuver big machinery to do intricate tasks like pour a cup of tea is great entertainment, and the way farming machinery comes to life at the event like this is what makes it so captivating to visitors,” says Cheryl.

Most recently an innovation zone was introduced to the event in 2017, a premier space for cutting edge organisations to showcase new concepts and products with the potential to be game-changers in the agricultural industry over coming years. Set to remain a feature in years to come, the ASB Innovation Zone has been welcomed as a space that celebrates the future of New Zealand agriculture, invites conversation and debate on the topics that matter, and complements everything else on offer at Central Districts Field Days.

Looking ahead, the plans are already in motion for making the next Central Districts Field Days a success. For an event that requires an annual set up of everything from basic infrastructure like water and power, to erecting hundreds of sites over a matter of days, it must be worth it. From someone who has been around for every event, Cheryl says, “it is”.