6 September 2002

FIELDTESTSINVALUABLE

As NORMAC members prepare to host another

cultivations demo, Peter Hill asked club organiser

Chris Thomas about how the organisation is faring

FIELD demonstrations have long been a feature of the Norfolk Farm Machinery Clubs (NORMAC) meeting programme.

The first, showing tractor hoes for weeding sugar beet and vegetable crops, was held at a site near Kings Lynn. Today, practical demonstrations and workshops remain a key part of the clubs activities.

"Farmers have come to appreciate the value of practical demonstrations like this," suggests NORMAC organiser Chris Thomas. "They can weigh up the pros and cons of not only individual implements but complete cultivation and drilling systems in one go."

As he points out, it is one thing to get an impression of machinery displayed in a glossy brochure or glistening on a show stand, quite another to see it at work on land similar to ground farmed at home.

"You can get a feel for how the implement will perform and quiz the manufacturer or dealer about the specification and special features," he adds.

This years programme kicks off with the biennial cultivations demonstration, which covers everything from spring tine cultivators to ploughs, subsoilers and the latest seed drills.

It takes a fair bit of work to bring everything together. But with the support of manufacturers and Norfolk dealers plus practical help on the day from members, the event usually provides an excellent local shop window for tractors, implements and associated equipment.

Mr Thomas has completed two years as NORMACs organiser. As a contractor and freelance engineer, providing on-farm servicing, maintenance, repairs, welding and fabrication, he is firmly at the sharp-end of machinery use, seeing at first hand how implements stand up to the rigours of field operations.

"The club remains very active and Im encouraging the centres to diversify their programmes a little with more talks and information on earth moving, construction and amenity groundscare machinery," he says. "This reflects the wider interests that people have these days, and some of the areas into which some are having to diversify their farming operations."

Agriculture remains the core interest for the club, however, which was formed in 1946 by a group of Norfolk farmers, machinery dealers and the national advisory service of the time, NAAS. It served to inform farmers about the potential for greater mechanisation of farm tasks, as horses gave way to tractors and there was a great push for the country to feed itself immediately after World War Two.

Today, membership stands at around 450 individuals, with 12 centres across Norfolk maintaining the clubs local character and making it easier for members to get to meetings. These are at Dereham, Diss, Docking, Downham Market, Fakenham, Flegg, Holt, Kings Lynn, Loddon, North Walsham, Swaffham and Wymondham.

Each centre organises its own programme, which runs during the quieter months on the farm, between October and March. The monthly meetings take in factory and farm visits during the summer, ahead of a winter programme of talks from machinery companies, consultants and dealers.

"These talks give farmers the opportunity to exchange views on different mechanisation topics, and share experiences from their own farms," says mr Thomas. "It all helps to follow local mechanisation trends and can be useful as part of an evaluation of new ideas or potential changes to farm systems."

Smaller-scale technical events and demonstrations are also staged on occasion, covering such subjects as crop sprayers, irrigation equipment, muck spreading, fertiliser spreading and crop harvesting technology.

But none compare with the scale of the biennial cultivations event which, this year, covers as wide a range of implements, tractors and ancillary equipment as ever.

As Mr Thomas adds: "There is nothing like seeing equipment in action. &#42

to help decide whether its something that could have a place on your own farm."

&#8226 For more information on NORMAC activities, contact Chris Thomas (01986-788209 or 07968-665761).

When Wed, 18 Sept

Opening times 10am to 4pm.

Where The site is adjacent to the A1067 at Guist, midway between Norwich and Fakenham, Norfolk.

Parking and admission Free.

Soil type Sandy loam. Demo plots will follow a cereal or oilseed rape crop.

Services Catering will be available on site, together with first aid facilities.

Biggest ever event

This years Normac event is to be held at the Sennowe Park Estate, which has a site offering over 80ha (200 acres) of land. It will be the venue for more than 60 manufacturers to demonstrate their wares and will create the biggest event ever, say the organisers.

It will provide visitors with an opportunity to assess the latest cultivation equipment available, from ploughs to power harrows, from disc harrows to tined cultivators, the event is a must for all those involved in arable production.

The Normac cultivations demonstration is organised by the Norfolk Farm Machinery Club which was formed in 1946 – 56 years ago – with a core membership of just 30 farmers.

One of the clubs first demonstrations was for a range of tractor hoes at a site near Kings Lynn. Since then, practical demonstrations have been a regular feature of the clubs calendar.

Normac has grown over the years to the point that it now boasts a membership of 450 and 12 centres in the county. Meeting on a monthly basis between October and March, activities through the year include farm and manufacturer visits.

The biennial Normac event will provide working demonstrations and static displays of latest cultivation kit.