The Watershed Festival is a large-scale agricultural fair held each year in Nelson, New Zealand. Organized by the South Island regional government, the festival dates back to 1846 when it was first hosted by John Stewart, Head of the Massey Mining Company. The purpose of this annual event was to introduce a new type of farming to New Zealand, one that would benefit both local people and the country as a whole. This first event led to the hosting of a second, larger, even bigger Fair, which was again organized by the South Island regional government but this time hosted by George Gray. The importance of these two major annual events in terms of industry growth and trade show participation cannot be underestimated. Although no particular agricultural product is thought to be developed or sold at the Fair itself, the farm industry flourishes at the events hosted by both bodies.
The idea of an event like the Watershed Festival is to bring rural life back to the forefront, as both the area and the country as a whole have been significantly damaged by the agricultural boom. There is a great emphasis on traditional, sustainable food grown using local resources and organic methods. It also aims to raise awareness among visitors and the public about the importance of local agricultural produce and show the real value of a “green” and “natural” image to New Zealand. Visitors can participate in activities and events ranging from horse racing and arts and craft displays to water sports and various agricultural products. While at the Fair itself, you can participate in multiple activities, including mud wrestling and a planting and re-potting competition!
Events like the Watershed Festival are designed to celebrate the region’s agricultural, fishing, and community-based industries, highlighting the critical role they play in New Zealand’s farming and national agrarian sectors. It is a chance for visitors to get up close and personal with the dairy cows and sheep of the area, meet the people who raise them and help develop the next generation of local food products. It is an opportunity to learn about the rich history of this unique corner of New Zealand and gain some exciting new knowledge about the importance of local agriculture. The event’s success relies upon the hard work put in by the volunteers and the planning and design of the events by the organizing committee. Each year, the local industry creates award-winning products and takes part in international affairs that draw national and international interest.