New Zealand AgriFood Week: A 365 Day Story

In the middle of a busy weekday morning in Palmerston North, we sat down to share a coffee with well-known local, the Hon. Steve Maharey.

Steve is one of the founders of New Zealand AgriFood Week and it was great to catch his insights about the original vision for the week.

“At Massey a group of us gathered together with the idea to create ‘the thinking-person’s Field Days’. Our focus was rooted in careers, science, and climate change,” Steve said. “We looked around and saw the resources we had in the Manawatū, and realised we needed to ask, “What does the country and the world need? Where is the future trending? How can we use our resources to meet those needs?”

With Manawatū’s rich heritage in agriculture continuing to grow in the fields outside our windows, the answer seemed obvious: food.

“Manawatū has a fantastic advantage, agriculture is in our DNA but we also need to recognise that this needs to include food. Beyond the farm gate there is food and a chain of consumption. Manawatū services that too, as the chain continues to utilise local innovation, quality, and research, including Massey and Fonterra. This special combination serves as an obvious hub and an important marriage for our story as a region.”

And so a mission to tell our agrifood story began.

In 2020 the fifth annual New Zealand AgriFood Week continues to sit at the intersection of agriculture, science and technology.

True to the ‘thinking-person’s field days’ goal, the week-long event series boasts an extensive line-up of thought-provoking events and forums that delve into the opportunities and challenges faced by our food sector. Research and development, projects and innovative solutions are given a platform to show how they meet these challenges head on.

It’s a week of striving for excellence in agrifood and agritech, inspiring the next generation of farmers, scientists, innovators and consumers.

As Massey’s Vice Chancellor at the time, Maharey and the team saw the potential for the first New Zealand AgriFood Week to mutually benefit both the city and the University. Long after his time with Massey, Maharey is still passionate about this project and believes there is more potential.

“Are we there yet? Not yet. We will be when every local cafe has menus and products year-round that boast the strengths of our nation and our region. When citizens of the city proudly cook regional products for their guests and bring them to restaurants that do the same. With events like New Zealand AgriFood Week and the exciting 3-year Strategy set to be launched, we are getting there but to truly be a proud agrifood city and region, it must be more than a week – it must be a 365-day investment by all people who live here. We are on our way.”

Maharey is the keynote speaker at the Week’s Strategy Launch and is thrilled to see the vision both cast and kick-started into action. “This is more than a vision, this is a plan in place, people are already invested, roles established, and all have been active long enough for it to matter.”

As a Te Aho Tāmaka Leader the value of this vision goes beyond the week, Steve is a strong advocate for the region.

“Palmerston North is my tūrangawaewae. The city has opened up opportunities for me throughout my life and been the place I return to after working/travelling around New Zealand and the world. It is where I have the best of friends and I know every corner of the city and its surrounding landscape.”

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