Thursday, 30 January 2020 09:42

Five years of success

Written by  Tim Warrington
East Coast Farming Expo event director Sue Wilson. East Coast Farming Expo event director Sue Wilson.

East Coast Farming Expo 2020 manager, Sue Wilson talks about the expo and her highlights from the last few years.

Wilson has been at the helm for five years alongside expo director, Dave Martin.

After five years, tell us about the highlights.

Each year comes with its own rewards and challenges, but I always enjoy hearing feedback about the success stories. One thing I hear a lot is how surprised farmers are at the variety of people they meet, the contacts they make and the positive impact this has on their business. We’ve said from the beginning the Expo is about finding solutions to help farmers farm smarter and I believe we’re achieving this.  

What’s the most popular part of the Expo? 

The presentations are always a big hit. The people that attend are really invested in what they do. During the talks they listen intently and engage in question time. It’s really great to see. We’ve also had an amazing array of exhibitors, from survey drones to electric bikes to the latest smartphone farming apps. The evening muster is extremely popular and always sells out. 

Has the Expo developed the way you planned? 

From the very beginning, we’ve aimed for slow and steady, and we’ve achieved this with year-on-year growth. The only real surprise has been how unkind Mother Nature was to us on a couple of occasions, but as farmers we’re prepared for this. Rather than deter people, the wet weather proved just how committed people are to what we’re doing. 

We’ve been fine-tuning the Expo with every passing year, and we’re proud with the result. The East Coast Farming Expo is a specialised event for farmers and their teams, designed specifically for the farming conditions of Hawke’s Bay and the East Coast. 

What are this year’s themes? 

The Bayleys Evening Muster panel discussion is about how rural communities are changing. Farming is such an ancient way of life. People have been working the land since dot, but this doesn’t mean that agriculture shouldn’t benefit from modern technologies. It’s about finding new ways to keep operating in small communities when some of the services close because of the rural decline. 

What’s special this year?

We’re pleased to welcome back the Minister of Agriculture, Damien O’Connor. It will be his second visit. He’s also the Minister for Rural Communities, so he brings with him a wealth of knowledge. In 2018 there was a great question time session with some enthusiastic discussion.

New trade exhibitors are on board for this year’s Expo, including Future Post who won the innovation award at the 2019 National Fieldays Awards.  

What’s your message to farmers? 

Well, it’s not just farmers – it’s anyone who’s involved in the land. And that’s to down tools and come along. It’s a great day off the farm and there’s plenty to see and do. 

The Expo is the perfect opportunity for farmers to work on their business off the farm! The event is for the whole farming team so it’s a great opportunity for professional development. 

What kind of reception have you had? 

Really positive. We’re bringing together experts in their fields and the people who will benefit from their knowledge and/or products. Farming can often be a solitary pastime so encouraging people off their farms for the day to meet and mingle is really beneficial. 

Future plans? 

To keep doing what we’re doing. The first few years of any new enterprise are always the hardest, so we’re keen to push on and keep growing the event. Feedback from farmers and the business community is positive and they see the value-add in what we’re doing. I’m looking forward to the next five years! 

Do you think the Expo challenges the traditional farming landscape? 

Absolutely. It provides a platform for farming women and men to have the important conversations together. Ask yourself if your operation is best practice for you? Are there ways to farm smarter, and are your farming activities time and cost effective?

Fast Facts

When: Wednesday 26 - Thursday 27 February 2020

Where: Wairoa A&P Society Showgrounds — halfway between Hawke’s Bay and the Gisborne regions

Why: East Coast farmers don’t have easy access to view new Technology and Innovations due to isolation and travel times.

Innovation and technology entrepreneurs don’t get to mix with this market on this scale with this specific focus

The internet doesn’t give you face to face interaction with the innovators or technology experts.

Cost: $10 at the gate

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