McIntosh and Son Mingenew Midwest Expo is back for 2022, with a new condensed one-day format

Cally Dupe and Adam PoulsenMidwest Times
Mingenew Midwest Expo.
Camera IconMingenew Midwest Expo. Credit: Mingenew Midwest Expo/Mingenew Midwest Expo

The McIntosh and Son Mingenew Midwest Expo is back for its 39th year on Friday, but the region’s biggest agricultural event has undergone a facelift in 2022.

The expo will look a little different in its final year before turning 40, with those behind it organising a one-day, forum-style event at the town’s polocrosse grounds on Friday.

Visitors will be able to peruse machinery displays, meet people working in the agricultural sector across WA and enjoy a full day of presentations honing in on a wide range of topics with presenters from across the world.

Agronomy, the economy, sustainability, research and development, weed precision technology, mental health, the war in Ukraine and changes to legislation affecting farmers are all set to be discussed.

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Gates will open at 10am before the action starts at 10.30am with the official opening delivered by Mingenew Midwest Expo chair and local farmer Andrew Cosgrove.

Still in the shadows of COVID-19 and with an internal staff restructure, the expo board made the decision to refine the event this year from two days to one and get back to “what Expo is all about”.

There will still be plenty for patrons to enjoy, including more than 60 trade displays, with many favourite exhibitors returning for another year.

With rapid grain market fluctuations, the flow-on effects of catastrophic events in Ukraine, the increase in fertiliser prices and the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Indonesia — all while it is not yet known what the season may bring — efficiency has never been more crucial to farming operations.

There will be plenty of the latest cutting-edge technology and equipment on display, across a big range of exhibits — from soil rejuvenation, grain production and weed control to water management, livestock wellbeing and performance.

The board, believed to be one the youngest field day boards in Australia, and the team behind the expo have plenty of fresh ideas to reinvigorate the event.

For Tiarna Kanny, the newest and youngest board member, change was a good thing even if she was not actively trying to reinvent the wheel.

The 23-year-old said locals and visitors could still expect a lot of the elements they love.

“I think it’ll be exciting to see this format of the expo, and for those who are a bit scared of something a bit different, don’t be,” Tiarna said.

“It’s a smaller and more ag-focused, and it’ll be a really great event. There’s plenty of fresh ideas on the board.

“We’ve noticed with the younger members, especially through social media use, that maybe our networks are a little bit broader.”

Australian cricket hero Brad Hogg will be one of the Expo’s guest speakers, recounting the ups and downs of his career and struggles with mental health.

The popular former Test spin bowler turned Lifeline WA ambassador will lay bare his battles with alcoholism and depression in a bid to destigmatise the despair endured silently by so many.

The 51-year-old is also the inaugural ambassador for Grain Producers Australia’s new Farmers Mates Mental Health Program.

Launched in May, the program — which Hogg will be promoting during his Mingenew visit — aims to boost mental health awareness and prevent suicides in regional and rural communities.

Hogg, 51, said there were various parallels between farming and the world of elite sport.

“We’ve got good seasons happening, but sometimes you’re just in that lonely space . . . and it’s a bit like cricket,” he said.

“When you’re travelling around playing international cricket . . . if a couple of bad days have happened in a row, all of a sudden you get a bit tentative walking out with your teammates.

“You start doubting yourself, and if you don’t talk to the coach or a teammate about it to get it off your chest, it festers and you start to lose sleep and worry about your game, and all of a sudden it just all falls apart.”

Discussions at Friday’s expo will continue at the main stage and across the grounds until 5pm, when the Expo Bar opens.

Those enjoying the sundowner will be entertained by the Young Farmers Competition held in front of the Expo Bar from 5pm, before the evening entertainment starts at 7pm with Shanghai Dave and Donelle.

This year’s theme is Collaborate, Communicate, Celebrate and it is those three things the Mingenew Midwest Expo board do best, with the day designed to be about information-sharing and fun.

Mr Cosgrove said the plan was to run a smaller, one-day event with a “more intimate” feel this year, with the hope to bring back Expo in its traditional form — a large-scale, two-day field day — next year.

He said the event would provide the opportunity for the agricultural sector to come together to do all the things the two-day event would normally offer, but on a smaller and more personal scale.

“Our community enjoys coming together socially and sharing with visitors. We are looking forward to welcoming familiar faces back and catching up socially and professionally with them,” Mr Cosgrove said.

Mingenew Midwest Expo Young Farmers competition organiser Billi Marshall said the contest she runs — which was held at Expo for the first time last year — would provide plenty of entertainment with the winning team qualifying for the young farmers event at the Perth Royal Show.

Inspired by the Young Farmer Contest held in New Zealand since 1969, Young Farmer events have become increasingly popular across Australia, including in WA and feature a series of challenges for mixed gender teams.

“The event will highlight a lot of the small jobs farmers do every day, and to showcase the skill involved in being a farmer in today’s workplace,” Ms Marshall said.

The Young Judges and Fencing Challenges will take a break this year, as will the cooking demonstrations, fashion parades, exhibitor awards, livestock competitions and performing arts competition.

The event is run by Geraldton-based events company Checked Events.

About 4000 people walked through the gates at last year’s expo, with the 2021 event also marking a tale of survival for the Mid West, as it was held four months to the day since cyclone Seroja hammered the region — battering farms and communities.

Proceeds of the 38th event was donated to the Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund Tropical Cyclone Seroja Appeal. In the end, $50,000 was donated, the equivalent of about $11 per person.

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