I was really cold by the time I checked into the Hamilton motel on Wednesday evening. I'd clocked 13,795 steps at Fieldays, yet managed to see just a smidgen of what was on offer at the Southern Hemisphere's largest agricultural show as I tramped all day about the Mystery Creek site talking with farmers, bankers, inventors and more.
I was impressed by the sheer genius of some of the innovations that were being demonstrated which will greatly increase farm productivity. But the mood was inexplicably flat. Probably why Government ministers — demonstrating some surgical precision of their own — were all over Fieldays' opening day.
I've no idea whether Jacinda Ardern uses Fitbit.
But it is fair to say the Prime Minister would have clocked up a fair few kms herself as she propelled herself about Fieldays — speechifying to an early am business leaders' breakfast, officially opening the 51st Fieldays on a "village green" complete with a flag raising ceremony and loud singing of the national anthem, then addressing the President's lunch.
All of this before 1pm as she led a select group of Cabinet ministers on a confidence-raising mission with the farming community.
It was a huge contrast from last year's Fieldays where Regional Development Minister Shane Jones was seen to have made a pig's arse of himself for publicly reaming out former Fonterra chairman John Wilson at the KPMG Leaders' breakfast.
The breakfast has become a tradition. Agri-business leaders come from all over to hear KPMG's global head of agribusiness Ian Proudfoot take them through his latest Agribusiness Agenda.
KPMG invites a select group of "business journalists" to this breakfast each year. But in 2018, media were left off the guest list. Ostensibly the breakfast was to be held in private so that some direct messaging could be conveyed. Jones' comments were inevitably leaked.
But Labour — at that stage — was still carrying a sore spot over suggestions farming leaders had over-reached during the 2017 election campaign in their opposition to environmental policies.
It is not too big a stretch to say some in the farming community are a bit "down in the dumps".
The mood at Fieldays this year was nowhere near as buoyant as the international prices for New Zealand's prime agricultural exports should engender. A factor that was noted by Proudfoot.
Ardern — making much of her childhood growing up in Morrinsville on a small orchard — created touchpoints with attendees at the breakfast. She singled out Fonterra's CEO Miles Hurrell. Pleasantly. She also talked up farmers' contribution to the nation.
Anecdotally, farmers seemed relieved that a capital gains tax will not be applied to farms. They will be able to continue to roll up the value into their farms and sell them tax free. They can thank New Zealand First — but also Labour's lack of courage — for that backdown.
But there are issues.
First up, despite the Government's $229 million Sustainable Land Use Budget package — which was welcomed by farming lobbies — there is still unease over environmental issues. Particularly, the "what comes next question?" and unease that a future Labour/Greens Coalition might be more aggressive.
Second, what will be the upshot of the United States and China trade war. China is a massive market for New Zealand's dairy and beef and lamb producers. It is also Zespri's biggest market. If consumer demand drops — as it is now with Chinese tourism — that could knock the top off returns.
Third, the Reserve Bank's intention to get banks to hold more capital.
Farmers are concerned that if this happens, credit — particularly in the dairy sector — will be rationed.
On top of this the Agribusiness Agenda pointed to labour shortages, the impact of growing demand for artificial meats; regulations and biosecurity threats.
Proudfoot said it was essential that more clarity was provided with some consistent messaging over what was coming down the pipe.
He also wanted to see the agriculture sector take a more active role in ensuring every New Zealander is fed properly. It was vital that every New Zealander was fed properly before thought was given to exporting.
"New Zealand can't afford to continue to be home to one of the world's most unhealthy communities if we want to tell the world about the natural, healthy, nutritionally dense food we grow in New Zealand," Proudfoot said.
"Having a plan to adequately feed all 5 million Kiwis before the first tonne is exported should be a goal for the industry."
Damien O'Connor and David Parker shared various podiums with the Prime Minister.
As for Jones, he was back in Wellington promoting the Wellbeing Budget in Parliament and promising to pull his head in a little in future. (Not about Fonterra — but his tendency to personalise issues).