Among the first farmer and grower organisations to be established in New Zealand were Agricultural and Pastoral (A & P) associations, the earliest of which was set up at Waimate in the Bay of Islands in 1842. As settlement picked up pace, other A & P associations were formed: Canterbury in 1863, Hawke’s Bay in 1873, and Otago in 1876. In 1908, 64 North Island and 41 South Island associations were incorporated under the Agricultural and Pastoral Societies Act.
A & P associations were organised around an annual show, which was an occasion to share information, learn about practical farming techniques and trial new machinery. The associations also arranged lectures on farming topics and demonstrations. The Canterbury A & P Association published Country Journal, New Zealand’s first farming periodical. By organising social and educational events, these organisations played an important role in the community.
Gradually, A & P associations began to act as political pressure groups for farming issues. Their first national conference was in 1892, attended by farming leaders and politicians. The meeting urged the minister of lands, John McKenzie, to establish a government department to oversee agricultural affairs. Within months he set up the Department of Agriculture. National conferences became annual events.