Over the past 49 years, Grain SA’s NAMPO Harvest Day has grown from a two day show that was attended by just over 200 farmers from the Free State and the old Wes-Transvaal, to the biggest agricultural showcase in the Southern Hemisphere; stretching over four days and attended by up to 70 000 visitors from across the globe.
The first Harvest Day was held on 7 and 8 June 1967 on the farm Donkerhoek in the Bloemfontein district. More than 600 visitors attended the Harvest Day in 1968, with R50 000 worth of transactions clinched that day. During that show a huge emphasis was placed on food and refreshments. Upon request, the ladies placed sosaties on the menu and were cordially notified that stywe pap had to be served with boerewors and braaivleis.
The former chairman of the board on nuclear power, Dr AJ Roux, was the main speaker the following year and the much loved Mr Fanus Rautenbach, the announcer. After the 1969 Harvest Day, the need for practical trials in the cultivation of grain crops was identified, but the emphasis was still on the practical demonstration of agricultural equipment.
In 1970 it was decided that stands and demonstration areas in the maize field will be rented out at R50 a piece, while exhibition space was made available at R25 a piece. Even then there was a shortage in exhibition space and prospective participants were warned to apply well in advance. The kitchens showed a profit of almost R700 at the end of that year’s Harvest Day.
It was later decided to hold additional Harvest Days and in May 1971 separate Harvest Days were held near Ottosdal and Standerton. The Free State Harvest Day was held on Hopefield farm in the Bloemfontein district.
After the conclusion of these three Harvest Days in 1972, a Harvest Day symposium was held where the possibility of a central Harvest Day, that would stretch over four or five days, was discussed. A Central Harvest Day Committee was formed and in October 1972 they decided that an ad hoc committee had to be elected with the instruction to obtain a permanent terrain for the Harvest Day from 1975 and henceforth. One of the main requirements was that the terrain had to be in the Bothaville/Viljoenskroon area to make it accessible to farmers from all over the country.
In 1974 the farm Marthaville, in the Bothaville district, was acquired as the permanent Harvest Day terrain. The reasons for deciding on this specific farm was that in those days, approximately 80% of the maize production area was situated within a 160 km radius from Bothaville and the farm was easily reachable with the Klerksdorp-Bothaville tarred road. One can imagine that the Harvest Day Committee in those days would most likely not have been able to foresee the kilometre long queues that are such a common sight at today’s Harvest Days.
In the years that followed, the Harvest Day went from strength to strength and grew into the biggest privately owned agricultural exhibition in the world. The Harvest Day and its role in the agricultural economy are internationally renowned, which makes it one of the main events on the agricultural calendar.
It is remarkable that the same objectives that was set for the very first Harvest Day, still stands today – and that is to create a platform where agricultural input suppliers and producers can come together and thereby creating an opportunity to make informed production and procurement decisions. In essence there has never been deviated from this objective.
The Harvest Day certainly does not just make provision for only maize farmers anymore. The exhibitions and demonstrations cover the whole of the South African agricultural industry and participation by international exhibitors and visitors also increase annually.