East Gippy Field Days attract crowd

Zoe Askew

THOUSANDS of people from across the state descended on the Bairnsdale Aerodrome last month for the annual agricultural event East Gippsland Field Days.

Established in 1986, the first East Gippsland Field Days were hosted on Trevor and Judy Richardson’s property two kilometres west of Lindenow before an increase in exhibitors warranted the agricultural event’s relocation to the property of Jim and David Johnston at Walpa in 1989.

By 1992 the event attracted 130 exhibitors calling for a more permanent site, with Lindenow Lions Club working with the East Gippsland Shire to secure a permanent residency at the Bairnsdale Aerodrome.

East Gippsland Field Days have become one of the most iconic events within the East Gippsland Shire, hosting more than 300 exhibitor sites and attracting crowds of up to 10,000 from across Gippsland, Victoria and interstate.

The 2023 East Gippsland Field Days, Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22, did not disappoint; quite the contrary, the cosmic agricultural event featured an extensive list of exhibitors, from food vans and drink stands to farming machinery and animal products to home wears and clothing.

With rows of colossal-sized farming machinery, numerous livestock care exhibitors and anything else one may need on a farm, from irrigation systems to solar power options, the 2023 East Gippsland Field Days were enough to make even the grumpiest of farmers crack a smile.

Among the many livestock stalls at this year’s event was Leebrooke Livestock.

Jessica and Matthew Lee took on the East Gippsland cattle property, which had been in his family for six generations, five years ago with a vision to build a flock of exceptional quality sheep to run alongside their Angus cattle.

Having been born and raised on Hillcreston Superfine Merino Stud near Bigga on the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales, Jess had the sheep experience to do it, but the couple quickly realised Merinos were not suited to their land, deciding to go with Australian Whites.

Jess and Matthew Lee established Leebrooke Australian Whites, today running both a stud and commercial operation, carrying primary Tattykeel and Gamadale genetics and grazing 150 Angus breeders.

The Australian White, also known as the “Aussie White”, is a relatively new breed developed by three leading Australian sheep stud operations to suit Australian conditions and modern Australian lamb market demands.

The Australian White is a moderately large, upstanding meat sheep breed that stands over a lot of ground, is white in colour and is a heavy breed without sacrifice to good mobility, with essential traits including good walkability, strong mothering instinct and a high degree of vigour in lambs.

A hair breed with good shedding ability, eliminating the need for shearing, makes Australian Whites a great easy-care option.

While Jess no longer has Merino sheep, there was no shortage of the fine soft woolled breed at the 2023 East Gippsland Field Days.

Macehill Merino, a family-run stud based in Stockdale, Victoria, with four generations of wool growing history, had a selection of young sale rams on display across the weekend.

Neighbours to the Bairnsdale Aerodrome, Gippsland Agricultural Group, were in attendance at the 2023 East Gippsland Field Days, with representatives from the not-for-profit group led by farmers for farmers showcasing the group’s recent projects.

One such project was the growth of a 10-tonne wheat crop in 2022.

Gippsland Agricultural Group sews a range of wheat and barley varieties each year at the Gippsland Research Farm to determine which performs best in Gippsland’s growing conditions.

The 2022 year proved to be an exceptional year for some varieties, with East Gippsland producing a 10-tonne per hectare wheat crop managed by agronomist Casey Willis with assistance from Noah Dunn.

Between Working Dog Trials, a Therapy Dogs vs Assistance Dogs presentation, Playful Paws’ dog presentations, Black Snake Productions Wildlife Show and a petting zoo, East Gippsland Field Days certainly catered to attending animal lovers.

East Gippsland whip-cracking sensation Emiliqua East was a popular event, with the Bairnsdale local’s whip-cracking demonstrations drawing in large crowds on both days.

Emi also provided free kids whip-cracking workshops this year, which she described as the best part of the 2023 East Gippsland Field Days in a social media post.

“Record gate numbers and perfect weather set the scene for the best fun weekend,” Emi said.

“A fantastic, enthusiastic crowd, and it was wonderful to see so many children with parents and grandparents stop to enjoy my shows on Friday and Saturday.

“But the best parts were the free instructional sessions,” she said.

“What a huge hit it was with the kids! Many had never held a whip and were towards the end of their first lesson cracking confidently; even blisters did not deter their enthusiasm!

“At least 50 children ranging from four years of age and upwards were keen to have a try and to learn the basics of cracking and handling a stock whip or improve on their existing techniques. What fantastic numbers.

“You guys who attended made it truly very special for me, and l enjoyed every minute. Thanks so much to the event organiser and all the committee of the Lindenow Lions Club; it truly felt like l was part of the family and so thrilled to be back once more.”

East Gippsland Field Days was not just a haven for farmers, with an abundance of non-farm related stalls, activities and events hosted across the two days.

With performances from former X Factor star Andrew Wishard, Misty Henderson and Band, the Evans Petroleum Kids Zone and The Great Dino (a race around the Dino Dash Arena in an inflatable dinosaur suit), 2023 East Gippsland Field Days attendees were spoilt for entertainment choice.

Hundreds of vendors from across the state showcased products from jams and sweet treats to jerky and chutney to candles and clothing; the stunning display of items on offer was arguably a bank account’s worst nightmare.

With a record number of exhibitors and guests, there is no denying the 2023 East Gippsland Field Days were a success;
the great folk from the Lindenow Lions and Lionesses have once again outdone themselves.

As Gippsland East Nationals MP Tim Bull said, the growth and success of the East Gippsland Field Days is a testament to the hard work of the Lindenow Lions and Lionesses.

“Since they began way back in 1986, the East Gippsland Field Days have developed into one of the biggest events in the region,” Mr Bull said.

“The funds raised go back into the local community and over the years have produced a huge array of beneficial outcomes.”

East Gippsland Shire Mayor Councillor Mark Reeves agrees with Mr Bull that East Gippsland Field Days is a testament to the hard work of the volunteer organising committee, saying the event is a highlight on the region’s events calendar.

“The field days were a great success overall, with excellent stallholder and visitor numbers across both days at the Bairnsdale Aerodrome,” Cr Reeves said.

“Many patrons took the opportunity to visit East Gippsland Shire Council’s site to engage with us, ask questions or collect information. Great weather added to the positive atmosphere.

“A real highlight this year was our Grown Caught Made treasure hunt trail, where children and their parents and grandparents visited about 12 producers or agribusiness-related stalls. It was great to see so many people participate in what was a very engaging initiative.

“Overall, the field days are a credit to the volunteer organising committee to see this event so well supported by exhibitors and the public alike.”

Traralgon’s Timothy Bye
Traralgon’s Timothy Bye, founder of The Gay Farmer Candles. Photos: Zoe Askew
The East Gippsland Field Days featured hundreds of machinery models.
The 2023 East Gippsland Field Days
The 2023 East Gippsland Field Days were equipped to suit any farming need.
Leebrooke Livestock
Leebrooke Livestock showed off their Australian Whites at the East Gippsland Field Days.
With so many different tractor models
With so many different tractor models to choose from begs the question of how on earth you could pick.

Gippsland Farmer

The Gippsland Farmer is a monthly agricultural newspaper reporting on rural news and distributed FREE and direct to an area covering from Cann River through to South Gippsland. For more than 40 years Gippsland Farmer has reported on a range of issues and industries including dairy, beef, vegetables, sheep, goats, poultry, organic farming, and viticulture.