HistoryThe Rural Youth Organisation of Tasmania Inc. was originally administered by an officer from the Department of Agriculture and later operated with a part-time secretary on a modest grant of ($14,000 pa) from that Department. Due to budgetary cuts in the early eighties, the Organisation had to stand on it's own two feet and find other means of raising funds, as well as uphold the aims and objectives of the Organisation.
After the success of the World Ploughing, a committee of 30 past and present Rural Youth members was formed and the first Agfest was held in May, 1983 at Symmons Plains, Perth. The first event attracted a total of 111 exhibitors and 9,000 patrons and was a 2-day event.
Agfest became a 3-day event from 1984.
The field days grew in popularity and by 1986 had outgrown the Symmons Plains site. The Organisation set about finding a permanent site and purchased a block of just under 200 acres at Carrick. The first Agfest to be held on this site was in 1987 and attracted 203 exhibitors and 23,000 patrons.
The Rural Youth Organisation of Tasmania Inc., has only 2.5 paid employees, the State Administrator and Assistant and a part-time Accounts person, whose duties include the administration of Rural Youth itself, the administration for AGFEST and also Tasmanian Rural Counselling Inc. With the diversity of the responsibilities of the Rural Youth office, much of the hands-on work and all of the policy decisions and introduction of new initiatives are left to either State Council or the Agfest Organising Committee.
The profits from Agfest, as well as supporting the Rural Youth Organisation, and enabling the employment of three full-time counsellors for Tasmania Rural Counselling (also administered by Rural Youth), have been channelled back into the site, to provide permanently installed Hydro power, four blocks of high quality permanent toilets, fencing, roadworks, and other cosmetic improvements. Regular working bees are held throughout the year where Rural Youth members continually work on these improvements.
The organising of Agfest not only provides obvious benefits for the agricultural community, but it also provides a unique opportunity for swift personal growth and leadership training for those involved. The Agfest Field Days is gaining more strength and momentum each year and is now recognised as being one of the top three field days in Australia. The Committee receive many accolades from exhibitors who travel the Field Days circuit and maintain that AGFEST is a very polished and professionally run event. The event also won the “Major Events & Festivals” category of the Tasmanian Tourism Awards for the 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2003 events and Best Region category for Agfest 2000 and 2001. Agfest was awarded the "Building Communities Award" at the 2008 Launceston Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards.
AGFEST is run by a volunteer committee of 30 young Rural Youth members and ex-members, with an average age of 24 years and the sole motivation for these young people is the desire to make a significant contribution to agriculture by staging the best possible event. It is an exhausting commitment, but one which provides immense satisfaction and a sense of pride.