Volunteers are the heart and soul of WA’s agricultural field days, and more than 200 people put up their hands to help make the Dowerin Machinery Field Days happen each year. Among those that keep the wheels moving at WA’s biggest field day are Jamie and Lisa Newton, who have volunteered for more than three decades. The couple moved to Dowerin from Rockingham 36 years ago, but Mr Newton always had regional WA in his blood after growing up on a farm at Ballidu. Upon arriving in town, Mr Newton launched a local business, Dowerin Engineering, and ran it for more than 15 years before selling the enterprise about 15 years ago. These days, Mr Newton does a range of building and maintenance work around the town — skills that have come in handy for the field days many a time. His involvement with the Dowerin Machinery Field Days stems back to when he first moved to town and would help crane in equipment required for the event. A few years later, the couple started helping run the Field Days’ famous burger bar. At the time, it was a 6m x 6m structure that could fit just 10 volunteers, who would busily pump out 300 burgers to hungry customers in two days. About 23 years ago, the Newtons were instrumental in moving the burger bar into a bigger facility, taking over what was once called the Landmark shed. After hours transforming the building — putting in new cool rooms, fridges, and benches — the new burger bar was opened with space for 25-30 volunteers. The group of hard workers push out up to 4000 burgers in two days. “People come back to the field days each year, and if people want to come back, we must be doing something right.” Dowerin Machinery Field Days event co-ordinator Wendy Flavel is taking the reins of volunteer recruitment and management this year, which is arguably one of the most important jobs. The organisation is workshopping a range of ways to improve its volunteer management in coming years, to create a record of volunteers to create a general pool. The aim is to create a diverse, younger talent pool to fill the many roles across the field days’ operations, and to provide a great way for people to learn new skills. “Volunteers play such an important part of our event, and without them the field days wouldn’t run,” Ms Flavel said. “There are so many options for people to volunteer in different areas, whether it be catering or at the gates managing both sales and online ticketing entrances, to running the various program of events and overseeing activations. “Roles are evolving with the changes in technology and we need a new generation coming through. “The hours are all donated to their local club or organisation, which is so important for the community.” Those volunteering at the field days are paid $20 per hour and in prior years have been able to nominate a local organisation as a beneficiary as long as it is within a 100km radius of Dowerin. This year, Dowerin Events Management is pushing that radius out in a bid to attract more volunteers from across the Wheatbelt. It is also encouraging use of the hashtag #teamwhatbelt on social media. “It is such a great fundraiser for local organisations,” Mr Newton said, adding he normally selected the Dowerin Bowling Club or St John WA as his beneficiary. Other volunteer projects Mr Newton is particularly passionate about include his work with the Dowerin Friends of the Cemetery organisation, which has also benefited from the field days’ volunteer hours. “Volunteers are the backbone of the Wheatbelt, and without volunteers, things don’t get done,” he said. The Dowerin Machinery Field Days will run from August 30-31.