Agquip, Gunnedah (NSW) – Australia’s largest agricultural field day

As is apparently the case in all but the very worst drought years, it rained at Agquip last week – in  fact there was also a bit of hail on the last day.  But like most agricultural field days, rain has a beneficial affect on visitation and sales.  Only an absolute deluge like that received at Agquip 2010, causes running headaches (last year, cars did get bogged – but that’s a rarity). 

Agquip has run since 1973 and is Australia’s largest agricultural field day.  More than 100,00 people visit Agquip over the 3 days, with 60% travelling more than 200km to attend – and many coming from hundreds or thousands of kilometres away.  Part of the enjoyment of the visit for me was seeing how amazingly well it is run.  Well formed roads, good signposting, heaps of rubbish bins and toilets, a heavy parcel pickup service and plenty of places to sit down and give the feet a well earned rest.  And with no public transport but  thousands of people heading off in cars after the 5pm close it would be reasonable to expect a traffic jam of monumental proportions.   But no, traffic snakes away from the Agquip site albeit at a slow pace for the first 10km out the other side of town, but with hardly a single halt.  Traffic-directing people man every potential log-jam site (intersections and roundabouts etc), and everyone pokes away calmly.  All are polite, except for the very occasional person who thinks they’re special…such as a Tamworth tractor dealership driver who sped past us on the left and cut in front, in the midst of a vehicle queue stretching for many kilometres. (A tip for this bloke – if you can’t restrain the urge to be ignorant in a vehicle, at least be smart enough to refrain while driving a vehicle with a business name written on it.  We had a good laugh at the sheer futility of his stupidity.)

In Agquip 2011 almost 3,000 companies were represented across more than 1,800 trade stands.  The trial crop area is 76 hectares and parking area 20 hectares.  The actual trade site area is 26 hectares and walking the exhibits from A to Z is a dedicated exercise that can only be achieved in one day if few stops are made – two days are required to get around the lot if you’re spending hours poking through the many tool sites, dealerships etc – especially if you’re haggling over purchases.   Due to the huge distance it’s not ideal for young kids unless you do as many did, and buy a wheelbarrow or cart early in the day, and load the kids up.   The elderly cruise around in one of the many golf carts owned by the Nationals, or a rental cart. 

When it comes to agricultural machinery – if it exists, it will be on display somewhere at Agquip.  Trade displays are interspersed with other things such as cattle weight guessing competitions, Land Inventor of the Year finalists, paraglider flights, remote controlled crop spraying helicopters and fencing competitions.  The standard price for one of the tenderest and best value steak sandwiches ever eaten is $7 – whether from the Murray Grey stand, Angus, Shorthorn or any other breed.

The ‘clever marketing’ prize (unofficially awarded – by me) for this year’s Agquip was shared jointly by a company selling inflated green men, lifted aloft by bunches of helium balloons – and the University of New England (UNE), where UNE students spent hours putting green UNE-logoed plaster casts on the arms of scores of kids.

Entry is free for all visitors because the running of the field day is paid for by sponsors and exhibitors.  Exhibiting isn’t cheap, however the cost is similar to what is charged at equivalent events, such as the tri-ennial Beef Expo in Rockhampton and annual Equitana (horse expo) in Melbourne and Sydney.

Agquip is heaven for anyone who has an interest in machinery and/or farming, and the running of it is a credit to the Gunnedah community.  Next year will be the 40th anniversary of Agquip – 21st, 22nd & 23rd August 2012.   Here’s hoping for a run of good seasons for the Australian farming sector.

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