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Has the Field Day run its race?

By: Richard Lewis, Executive Director TMA

Posted by Mim Mitchell, 15th April 2015

Tough seasons impact all of us involved in agribusiness – not just farmers. A vivid reminder of this is the poor attendance and general uncertainly at the field days in various states around the country over the past 6 months, and more specifically at the recent Wimmera Machinery Field Days held last week at Longerenong. I attended on Wednesday which “was better than yesterday” for most of the machinery exhibitors I spoke to, although the crowds were noticeably down on previous years, and the dust blowing in from the West in the afternoon gave an indication as to why. The general interest pavilions were a bustle 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. Last year was a tough year for the Horsham district and with little rain around early in the year, things are looking a little grim again this year without a break in the next couple of weeks. 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. Farmers facing another tough season don’t need to go to a field day to look at what they can’t afford.

 

My question is however, why do people go to field days today? Any new products on display are generally launched overseas before here, and information is abundant on the web for seeking out details on every product shown at the field days. The local dealers such as O’Connors, Emmetts, William Adams and Traction Ag are all in attendance with larger sites displaying millions of dollars worth of equipment, as are the local manufacturers and importers looking to display their machinery. 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 quiet 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.

 

The long and the short of it is that if local farmers don’t attend the 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% of the marketing spend of a machinery business, this number is diminishing and would not account for 50% these days. 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.