Records smashed

A record crowd attended the Golden Anniversary Dowerin Field Days for WA’s best |display of agriculture. Shearing the rams proved popular.
A record crowd attended the Golden Anniversary Dowerin Field Days for WA’s best |display of agriculture. Shearing the rams proved popular.

A big crowd flocked to the tiny Wheatbelt town for the golden anniversary event ” the biggest business and social event for WA farmers.

This year featured a record 660 exhibitors, including a wealth of farm machinery and equipment and other agricultural products and services. Exhibitor numbers were up 12 per cent on the previous record.

With a good wheat crop last year and another forecast this season following timely winter rains, many farmers chose to open their wallets to buy big-ticket items for the first time in years.

Event co-ordinator Jenna Freind said exhibitors were ‘reporting strong interest and good sales’.

Show visitor numbers were up 17 per cent on last year.

‘We are thrilled with the increase in gate numbers,’ Ms Freind said.

Food stalls reflected the larger crowd, with many struggling to keep up with demand.

Ms Freind said many of the larger sites had been split to accommodate the extra numbers this year and some of the pavilions had been extended.

The Field Days were opened by Premier Colin Barnett, who delivered a stinging attack on Clive Palmer in his address following the politician’s outburst against the Chinese last week. He said Australia’s largest trading partner needed to be treated with respect.

‘We cannot afford to have another situation like the live export debacle,’ Mr Barnett said, referring to the ban on beef sales to Indonesia after reports on inhumane treatment of animals at Indonesian abattoirs.

‘WA producers need to embrace China.’

Mr Barnett said WA farmers needed to increase their productivity in order to be globally competitive in developing overseas markets.

‘The markets that are now available to us off our shores are great and the only way we are going to be able to keep up is to increase productivity,’ he said.

‘We’ve got about 1.9 million cattle in WA and we are down to about 15.5 million sheep. We used to be 38 million sheep, so we’ve got a long way to go to improve to get back to that.’

As well as the host of agricultural equipment dotted around the huge site, there was plenty to entertain mums and children with cooking demonstrations, competitions, fashion and art displays and a sweet stalls.

For the first time, children attending the Field Days were given a free activity booklet designed to educate them about agriculture.

Dowerin District High School deputy principal Kylie Fowler has been putting the booklet together for the local school since 2009 but this year was the first time it was available to the public.

– Field Days in pictures: page 4

– Wheat funding boost: page 5