James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Fieldays now a foodie's delight

Gourmet produce and cooking demos turn expo into much more than just farming technology showcase.

Josh Emett.
Josh Emett.

Gone are the days of Fieldays visitors being happy with a pie, chips and a hot dog.

These days it's more about gourmet cheeses, specialty meats, fine wines, cooking demonstrations from a Michelin-starred chef and a decent brew to wash it all down.

Fieldays starts today at Mystery Creek with more than 900 exhibitors on 1380 sites across 50ha, making the four-day farming event the biggest of its type in the Southern Hemisphere.

But despite the event showcasing the latest in farm technologies and innovations - it's in the kitchen where things are getting busier.

The Kiwi's Best Kitchen features celebrity chef Josh Emett who will again demonstrate his cooking prowess to packed audiences at the dedicated area for premium New Zealand-derived food exhibitors who will show off gourmet cheeses, wines, sweets, sauces and specialty meats.

The attraction has been a part of Fieldays for just seven years but has grown in popularity and is now firmly entrenched among its most-visited places.

For Waikato-raised Emett, who cooked burgers at Fieldays with his dad for the Ohaupo Lions club in the late 1970s, the event was a godsend from when culinary choices were limited to "pies or burgers".

Emett said the event's increasing popularity was probably due to the fact that rural types were self-sufficient.

"They'll be killing their own food whether it's shooting venison or ducks and often because they have land they have fruit trees and vegetable patches.

"So these people are seriously into their food and using it well."

Emett, who will perform demonstrations daily at Fieldays, said the event could feature on a foodie's yearly must-do list.

"I think it could, it's something different, I think it's an outstanding day out for the kids ... and food is a big part of anyone's life so it's a really easy thing to integrate into Fieldays."

Among the exhibitors is Good George brewery owner Jason Macklow who said Kiwis were taking a more discerning approach about their food.

He said the popularity of food exhibitions at Fieldays was likely due to shows such as Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules.

"Fieldays is not just about buying tractors and a new shed - these days people are getting educated about food and are more interested about its quality."

NZ National Fieldays chief executive Jon Calder said there had been an unprecedented demand for sites with 28 new agri-business stalls created.

This year's Fieldays expects a 125,000-plus crowd.

Forecast service aids farmers

A tailormade forecasting service that can provide updates straight to a farmer's smartphone about damaging weather such as heavy rain, snow or frost is among the attractions to be unveiled at Fieldays.

Niwa is launching FarmMet, a forecasting system that provides farmers with accurate, up-to-date weather forecasts that are specific to their property.

The programme is aimed at helping farmers weigh up risk and make decisions on everyday farming practices such as when to move stock, when to irrigate or spray, or when to protect against potentially damaging weather like heavy rainfall, snow, frost or high winds.

It works by capturing data from the climate stations closest to an individual farm and using that to tailor a forecast to farmers delivered straight to their computer.

Using this system, Niwa can create different forecasts for properties as little as 12km apart.

Niwa chief scientist Murray Poulter said farmers increasingly relied on accurate weather forecasts to plan key work programmes on their properties.

"FarmMet is a precise, easy-to-use tool that can help farmers with weather-related decisions they need to make on the farm," he said.

"It uses scientific data to deliver local weather information and a range of forecasts from two to 15 days out."

The forecasting system, available on a subscription basis, is backed by Niwa's internationally recognised weather and climate science expertise and by one of the most powerful supercomputers of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

- NZ Herald

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