It's a paddock, much like a thousand others, bordered by poplars and lying warm in the lee of the sawtooth hills around Waimumu, inland from Gore, in eastern Southland.

There's not a lot in Waimumu, to be honest. A couple of houses and a hall, like most, more vacant than used, but not neglected. In the smallest places, halls are like memory; something you don't want to lose because that really would mark the end.

So it's there, tidy, full of old functions, waiting in case it's needed. And the paddock's the same. Most of the time, it just grows its grass and sits there but, once every two years, it becomes a busy and teeming place, packed with people and tents and brand new tractors.

That's what's happening this week. The Southern Field Days have arrived, for the 16th time in the past 32 years. They alternate, you see, the Southern Field Days. Last year, they were at Lincoln. This year, it's Waimumu's turn again. And they're the biggest Southern Field Days ever. More than 600 exhibitors, crammed together, row by row; along the Blue Lane, Black Lane, White Lane, Orange, the Green and the Blue, Red, Purple and Pink.


In the gilded groves of the Super City, there could well be puzzlement as to the relevance of this. The languid habitues of Newmarket may regard any Field Days, Southern or otherwise, as nothing more than Deliverance with a cheque book. Fashion Week is more their thing - and ours too, supposedly.

The buzz from the boffins is that we've got to get high tech and whizzy. We must walk the Weta walk and talk the IT talk. Add value, head upmarket, tap into the cyber world. Farming is a sunset industry, old hat, old school, old world, prone to fouling pristine streams with incontinent cows.

There's no point flogging milk and trees and meat and wool to the world. Commodities are so yesterday!

Except they're not. They're still how we pay two-thirds of our bills. And Field Days aren't merely the heartland doing its thing. They're also the head land, a place where much of that cutting-edge stuff so beloved of the policy analysts is actually on show. It's just that they're not looking.

Innovation and success go hand in hand. Each feeds off the other. A quick walk around Waimumu is proof positive of that. Nothing exhaustive, mind. You can't wander round willy-nilly, when you're working. So this is no comprehensive list of our brightest and best high-tech export earners. It's just what was seen en route to the (slightly wobbly) portaloos.

Chances are, you won't have heard of any of these businesses. You won't know what they do. You may not even care. Farm machinery isn't sexy. It doesn't feature in the glossy mags. If there are machinery awards, and people do win gold for things like Best Export Wool Press, the eager telly bubbies don't turn up to gush as they do when some hand-pressed chablis gets a gold medal from an overseas quaffer, much impressed by its "mesmeric hints of raspberry, gooseberry, parsnip and lemongrass," not to mention "the notes of asparagus, licorice, beeswax and macaroni."

You can't get that with machinery, alas. Even if the mediocracy deemed drills to be sexy, it's hard to go overboard about "subtle hints of diesel" and "the translucent colour of the welds."

But here in the heartland head land, there are firms such as ICS, employing nine people in Rangiora and exporting their Dominator wool press to the US, Sweden and India. Or Trimax Mowing Systems with a slew of shiny red machines on show. Trimax has been operating for 31 years. Their factory's in Tauranga and 85 per cent of what they produce is exported.


The brochure says they're "positioned at the premium end of the market," producing Rotary Orchard mowers and other kit that's "aesthetically pleasing" and represents a "fresh, new approach to mower conception and design."

Put that in your high-tech pipe and smoke it, Mr Guru!

And don't forget Cross Slot No Tillage Systems either. It's the Rolls- Royce of drills, apparently. One chap who imports other people's gear says he's actually exported second-hand Cross Slots Drills because a used Cross Slot is still better than a new anything else. Last year, Kevin Larson, from Willow City, North Dakota, won the US Zero Till Farmer of the Year Award with his Cross Slot, which was also a finalist in the 2010 World Technology Awards Environment Section.

Must've happened when the Oscars were on.

Add Paddon Willet Discs ("Strongest on the market")

and RXP Plastics, whose modular sewage treatment systems - looking uncannily like a Martian laboratory - have been exported to Fiji and elsewhere and the case is closed, especially when you bear in mind these are but a fraction of the 600 sites.

Field Days may be a bit like Christian music festivals; odd things not easily accommodated in the world view of the urban pundit but what Waimumu proves is, even if the weld's not our oyster, plenty of people are shelling out for clever stuff we make.