Strong commodity prices have resulted in a 55,000 strong crowd at the Henty Machinery Field Days to inspect the “agribusiness supermarket’’, showcased by 868 exhibitors on the biggest site area in the event’s history.
Held on September 20-22, the event drew record day one crowd numbers on Tuesday but wet weather dampened numbers for the remainder to result in the final tally.
Despite waterlogged winter crops in some areas, visitors responded by travelling from every state in Australia, armed with their shopping lists.
Exhibitors reported buoyant sales and solid follow-up leads.
This year featured the largest site area, cementing Henty as the single biggest outdoor and agriculture event in Australia.
HMFD chairman Ross Edwards said the hot ticket items this year were sheep and cattle handling equipment, and chaser bins.
Mr Edwards said planning for the 2017 event was already afoot with a vision to build on the agronomy display by Baker Seed Co.
He said the new 120m Country Lifestyle pavilion filled with more than 100 exhibitors was a drawcard for field day visitors.
The pavilion was officially named the Taylor Wood Pavilion in honour of long serving field day volunteers Milton Taylor, Henty, and Colin Wood, Table Top.
“Farm Gate was a hit again with good feedback on the quality of the locally grown produce,’’ Mr Edwards said.
“The agronomy trial plots were outstanding and Baker Seed Co to their credit had done a great job there.
“Exhibitors that I have spoken to by and large are happy, with many making good sales.
“On the quieter day they had time to talk to those people genuinely coming along to make a purchase.’’
The 53rd annual field days marked 50 years of voluntary service for Mr Edwards since first working as a car park attendant with Pleasant Hills Rural Youth at the 1966 field days.
“I won’t be leaving the field days but I believe we must bring younger people into the executive positions, and I will be there to support them without getting in their way,’’ he said.
“I will be in the background working for this great organisation which is great for the Henty district and the region.’’
The field days were officially opened on Tuesday, September 20 by Australian Dairy Farmers deputy chairwoman Simone Jolliffe, of Wagga.
A highlight of this year was the coveted Henty Machine of the Year Award being presented to Urana woolgrowers Charlie and Tana Webb for their sheep handling solution, Back Up Charlie.
Highly commended was the Miller Nitro 6365 with Spray Air from McIntosh Distributors, WA.
In other awards, the Landaco Maxispread bulk spreader from Landaco Equipment, Wagga Wagga, won the Tractor and Machinery Association Award for best new Australian designed and built agricultural machine.
Landaco Equipment principal Peter Connor said Henty was an ideal place for clients to research bulk fertiliser spreaders.
“It isn’t a hot time for spreading as most people are considering their harvest, chaser bins and hay making but it gives us a great time to showcase our product to people who in the New Year will be looking to do spreading,’’ Mr Connor said.
“It gives us time to catch up with people about our spreaders and hear how they are performing.
“Being our local field days, it is a great time to showcase what we do locally.
“People still get surprised to learn we build this product in Wagga.’’
Always a crowd favourite, the Exelpet/Pedigree three sheep field trial drew 105 entries and their handlers from around the nation.
Paul Elliott, Eumungerie, NSW, took out the event with his dog Elliotts Georgie.
Drawing a record 130 entries, the Exelpet/Pedigree Murray Valley Yard Dog Championships were dominated by Dale Thompson, Winton, Vic, and his nine-year-old bitch, Roustabout Girl.
New Zealand fashion designer Laurel Judd set the catwalk abuzz with her fitted and backless machine knitted gown in fine Merino yarn to win the Henty Natural Fibres Fashion Award supreme garment.
The competition drew almost 90 entries, including an additional international entry from India.
Amanda Causer, Wagga, won the millinery section, Judy Bond, Mildura, the knitted and crochet section, Faye Marks, Wodonga, the accessories and Mollie O’Halloran, Yarrawonga, the student encouragement award.
Henty Natural Fibre Fashion Awards judge David Tester said the field days offered a connection between fibre and consumer.
“There is a disconnect between the grower and the retail shop, so to see the diverse range of hand knitted products here encourages and inspires people,’’ Mr Tester said.
Baker Seed Co sales and business development manager Aaron Giason said more people had visited their site by mid morning on the Tuesday than the previous two years at Henty.
The company showcased 22 wheat varieties in the agronomy plots, including a replacement for the popular grazing wheat, Wedgetail.
Mr Giason said the Wedgetail replacement had captured grower interest.
“The agronomy plots have really drawn people in to have a look and we have been pleasantly surprised,’’ he said.
“I knew it was an interest point but there were quite a lot of people making it part of their pilgrimage to have a look at what we are doing.
“Although the wheat market is a bit deflated, there is still a lot of interest in new varieties and growers are inspecting the different types of canopies with the wetter conditions.
“The newer varieties show what they can offer outside of yield and quality.’’
Farm Gate Produce Market spokesperson Ordette Mannering said the pavilion drew strong interest in the regional products produced within 100km of Henty.
“This is the perfect place to get a locally grown product out to 50,000 people from all around the country,’’ Ms Mannering said.
“Other shows and organisations come here to see Farm Gate and it could be a model for other events.’’
Hardi Sprayers Victorian/NSW territory sales manager Graham Wilkinson was pleased with the results at Henty.
“A sheep track was worn around our self-propelled sprayer with the interest in it,’’ Mr Wilkinson said.
“It has the widest boom and biggest tank on the market, so that was an attraction in itself for farmers.
“Hardi gets a lot of exposure out of Henty and we enjoy coming to Henty.
“I go to all the major field days and find this is a good location with good exposure for us.’’
TASCO Petroleum lubricants manager Mark McKenzie said the amount of product moved this year was on par with past field days.
“We love coming to Henty as it’s right in the middle of where we distribute,’’ Mr McKenzie said.
“We get a lot of regular customers come back year after year, and it is a good way to meet and greet our customers.’’
John Crooks, Uniboom Australia, reported sprayer units sold off the site during the field days with plenty of bargain hunters on the final day.