World of opportunity at this year’s Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days

Dorothy HendersonCountryman
Crowds gather at the 2019 Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days.
Camera IconCrowds gather at the 2019 Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days. Credit: Kate Drennan Photography

This year’s Dowerin GWN7 Field Days offer a “world of opportunity” to those who attend, and those who are involved in making it into WA’s largest agricultural field day event.

While this year’s theme is an expansive one, it accurately encompasses so much that the field days deliver.

In 1964, the first field days were held as a fundraiser to water the town’s football oval and tennis courts. They provided the opportunity for local groups to enjoy their sports. Since then, fundraising for the Wheatbelt community has been at the core of the event’s existence.

Not only does the event provide exhibitors with the opportunity to connect with people, but it also provides the community with the chance to support and strengthen itself.

According to Dowerin farmer and Dowerin GWN7 Field Days board chair Ash Jones, the field days are all about opportunity.

Ash Jones.
Camera IconAsh Jones. Credit: Cally Dupe

He said that in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has isolated people on and off during 2020 and 2021, this year’s field days provide people with the opportunity to catch up with other, in person.

“In my mind, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the opportunity for connection in the virtual world, our communications changed while we were in lockdown, and I see that provided a lot of opportunity to learn how to do things differently,” Mr Jones said.

“But we still need these events: people need to see each other, to smell, feel and touch things,” he said.

Mr Jones said that events like Dowerin’s own field days provided people with no connection with the regional areas of WA with a reason to visit.

“So many people in the city no longer have a connection in the country, and they may never have a reason to come out here,” Mr Jones said.

“I like to think that if they enjoyed a trip to Dowerin, that might be enough to spark something. One day that person might be considering their career options and decide they will come back to be a doctor in the country, or a mechanic, or an electrician in the Wheatbelt,” he said.

“We are not that far out of the city, and there is a world of opportunity out here.”

In addition to exposing the Wheatbelt to the outside world, the field days also serve to highlight the opportunities available in agriculture.

Education institutions will be on hand to provide information about their programs, and there will be plenty of opportunities for people interested in a future in agriculture to mingle with those in the industry, ranging from agricultural scientists to machinery dealers.

It is not all about opportunities for “ag” though, with the Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days keen to support those who work hard to operate small business ventures in rural WA.

At this year’s event, the Regional Start-Ups Arena will give visitors the chance to peruse regional small businesses, those producing a wide selection of products ranging from candles to gin.

Opportunities abound within the grounds, but it is by broadening those within the region that the field days have the most obvious impact.

Since watering the grounds in 1964, the days have continued to support Wheatbelt communities, including those further afield than Dowerin.

In a first for Australia, field day managers implemented a volunteer payment program which enabled it to have a direct and long-lasting impact on community strength.

So many people in the city no longer have a connection in the country, and they may never have a reason to come out here.

Ash Jones

“Over 300 volunteers are at the heart of this event, all are paid an hourly wage that goes to a not-for-profit organisation of their choosing that is within a 100km radius of Dowerin,” Mr Jones said.

The $20 an hour paid per volunteer helps recognise the efforts of the people that drive the Dowerin event, those hard working and dedicated people who roll up their sleeves to roll out electrical cables and direct people.

And it supports the communities they belong to, allowing those communities to provide more opportunities for those in them.

In 2019 alone, volunteers raised $75,000 through the volunteer hours program which helped community groups and organisations from Dowerin, and surrounding places such as Goomalling, Toodyay, Meckering, Cunderdin and Northam.

“We also offer two grant funding rounds a year that organisations involved in field days can apply for,” Mr Jones said.

With grant rounds in March and October, a further $30,000 is pumped into the Wheatbelt each year.

“In the past 10 years, Field Days has contributed over 1.6 million back into the region through projects and community group contributions,” Mr Jones said.

Click here to view the digital edition of the program.

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