Monday, 16 April 2012

Last week the Farming Show celebrated its 18th birthday

Last week the Farming Show celebrated its 18th birthday.

It seems only like yesterday two young blokes from Gore took a huge punt by purchasing 4ZG, the first, and only Radio New Zealand station sold to private enterprise. Even our landlord to be, a delightful old farmer by the name of Bert Horrell, thought we were mad. But once we’d convinced him of our conviction to see this through, he gave us his blessing and some advice I’ve never forgotten. You don’t regret the things you do, you regret the things you don’t do.

What started as a five minute rural segment on a fledgling private radio station way back in 1994, has today grown to a one hour programme broadcast nationwide on a national network. Of that I’m very proud. From the early days of the rebranded Hokonui Gold, we could see the potential in rural broadcasting. Farmers are very savvy radio listeners. They are often all-day listeners in their farm utes, tractors, four-wheelers, milking sheds, woolsheds or workshops.

Most importantly, farmers are big-ticket purchasers, often making spending decisions that involve tens (or sometimes hundreds) of thousands of dollars. We quickly figured if you could communicate effectively with farmers you had a good business model. Smart operators such as Ballance Agri-Nutrients and Rabobank were quick to figure it out too.

Often in business you don’t have to be the best but it’s best to be the first cab off the rank. I could’ve named a dozen radio broadcasters who were more talented and better qualified to host a nationwide farming programme than yours truly but it was a case of the early bird getting the worm. We were first-in and subsequently best-dressed.

I’m also proud that the Farming Show has spawned the advent of a similar format on a competing network. Imitation is the best form of flattery (though I’d be too scared to mention that in the presence of Richard Loe!) Others such as Steve Wyn-Harris and 1996 Young Farmer of the Year Phil Reid are also doing a sterling job on their respective radio stations, Central FM and Hokonui Gold. But what I’m most proud of is the fact the penny has dropped and commercial radio has finally seen the true value of rural broadcasting. And that in turn gets the good news story, farming, to urban New Zealand.

# Writing a weekly column in a national farming publication is a privilege that gives you access to every farmer’s mailbox. Two weeks ago in this fine publication I wrote about my cousin Kev and his battle with cancer. I was subsequently inundated with kind words about his story. Sadly Kev lost his fight on Easter Monday. 2012 has been a bugger of a year for those near and dear to me. I lost my mother and my best mate from university on the same day early in the year. Now Kev’s gone.

As a result, my new year’s resolution is to take advantage of every opportunity afforded me. I’ve put my money where my mouth is. As you read this I’ll be making my way from Beijing to the see the Great Wall of China. That’s one more ticked off the bucket list.

It was also the catalyst for organizing a Farming Show 14 day tour to South America to see the All Blacks play the Pumas in La Plata on September 29 while taking in some of Argentina and Chile’s best dairy, beef, sheep, salmon and vineyard operations. To that end, we enlisted the services of one of New Zealand’s leading dairy farmers and former Fonterra director, Mark Townshend, to arrange the farm visits. He and his wife Diane have considerable farming interests in Chile so were a natural fit to handle that side of things on tour.

What Bert Horrell said prophetically 18 years ago, still rings true today. You don’t regret the things you do, you regret the things you don’t do. It’s not a bad motto by which to live your life. See you in South America!

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB.


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