|Today's date: Wednesday August 20, 2014||Vol 47 Issue 33|
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Wellington County Plowing Match continues decades-long tradition
by Mike Robinson
MINTO - One good furrow deserves another.
The history of Wellington County’s annual plowing match seems as old as the county itself.
An important part of that rich heritage is repeating itself in a few days as the match returns to Minto on Aug. 18 at the farm of Keith and Doris Jean Clyne, just outside of Harriston, near the intersection of Highway 89 and the Blind Line. Plowing begins around 10am.
The match was held at the same location on Oct. 6, 1939 - and the farm was also in the Clynes’ family then.
For Wellington County Plowmen’s Association president Carman Weppler, of Minto, “This is an amazing bit of history, and an example of the quality of thread that weaves our Plowmen’s Association together.”
Weppler believes 1913 saw the first such match in the county. “That’s almost 100 years.”
He noted some years the plowing match was missed, such as during the World Wars.
Plowmen from all over Ontario, both young and old, will be competing. Everything from horse drawn plows to state-of-the-art modern equipment will be on the field.
The event features the 4-H Sod Busters and this year’s Queen of the Furrow competitors, and VIPs will show what they can do with a plow.
“Anyone can take part, anyone with a tractor and a plow,” said Weppler.
There is also an Ontario Plowing Association, which holds the International Plowing Match. This year, that event is being held in Prescott-Russell County in September.
There is also a Canadian Plowing Association and a World Plowing Association.
“What we have [in Wellington] is kind of grassroots for a young fellow to go around,” Weppler said.
Competitors earn points and the next year they can earn the right to compete at the International Plowing Match.
From there, they could go to the Canadian then the world competition.
“The local match is a stepping stone. This grassroots level competition is more fun than anything,” Weppler said.
“There are certain fellows such as myself, that go around to various matches. It’s like showing cattle. You go around from match to match. It’s not like you’re going to make any money or anything, but hopefully it pays for a little bit of gas. It’s the fellowship, time with other people, and a good time.”
Weppler first became involved in plowing as a youth.
A neighbour, who had moved in from the Guelph area, had plowed his entire life.
“He had that plow sitting in his shed. I was 9 or 10 years old, and we were doing hay on his property and the neighbour asked if I was interested.
“He didn’t have a tractor for the plow at that time. We had a tractor which was perfect for the plow. We hooked it on and started practicing.”
Weppler said for him, “That’s where it all started.” By the second year he was plowing competitively, though he was only 11 years old.
“You’re supposed to be 12, but I was the only young guy there - so they didn’t worry too much about that. I’ve been [competing] ever since.”
While competitive plowing is important, his roots are firmly planted in agriculture. Weppler’s farm straddles the northern boundary of Minto.
“We milk dairy cows and have layer chickens. We also have a few beef cows, and a bit of cash crop on the side. We do a bit of everything.”
Agriculture has been his life.
“After high school, I went to Ridgetown College to get a post-secondary diploma in agriculture. I graduated in 1998, and I’ve been full-time farming ever since on the farm here.”
Weppler describes his role as the county association’s president as one of promoting the match, creating the plowmen’s directory, hosting the annual plowing match, but also working to bring an awareness to people about the plowing match.
He talked about the Queen of the Furrow competition and Cassandra Chornoboy, the 2010-11 Queen of the Furrow, and her major role in promotion.
“She helps put the word out and participates in fairs, parades and helps get the word out about who we are - and what we do.”
Weppler added, “People need to be aware of where their food comes from. That’s a big thing. Plowing is just one part of the overall process of bringing food to the table.”
Weppler said the matches give a good idea what judges are looking for when it comes to plowing.
Later, when a person is driving down the road and looking into fields, that person will be able to recognize good jobs.
“At the same time, we can educate young people on the proper ways to plow, plant seeds, and show the start of the process from fields to crops to the food that appears in the local grocery stores.
Weppler suggested the techniques for plowing have not really changed over the years, although the technology has.
“They still plow with horses and there are still antique plows in use. But there’s also modern day plows as well.
“I don’t know if we’re getting any better at it than 50 years ago. The equipment has changed but the techniques really haven’t.”
As for his decision to tackle the presidency of the local association, Weppler quipped he was more “volunteered” than anything.
But he pointed out there are very few young people who are involved in that type of activity.
“It’s kind of a sad situation,” he said. “It’s a dying art.
“Young people have to get involved or it’s going to go by the wayside.”
As a result, Weppler took the initiative to help get the next generation involved. He said by starting now, there is a chance to learn from the experience of the previous generation and get insight into things that have happened in the past.
“You can hold that information and those ideas - and take them into the future.”
Weppler noted that some plowmen’s associations are more vibrant than others - but there is not a large number of young people in the local county association.
But, he said, the Wellington Plowmen’s Association “has a good group of 4-H kids. But they are not really involved in the mechanics behind the association.”
He believes that perhaps it is time to pursue that more actively.
In offering a bit of advice to younger people and those considering competing, Weppler said access to the equipment is the big thing.
Transportation is another factor.
“But you don’t need brand new equipment to get involved. An older plow and tractor is just fine.”
He added it also takes a lot of time, effort and money to compete.
“It all depends how serious you are.”
There’s a level of being serious or just playing around - which are two very different things when it comes to competition, Weppler says.
“It’s simple enough to bring in an old field plow and drop it in, and away you go. It’s not a big deal. But if you want to get serious, you’d need to invest some money for proper equipment and go for it.”
He’s been going to numerous matches over the years, and cited his best showing as placing third at the IPM.
It’s something that does require practice.
“But practicing at home is not the same as being at a competition.”
Weppler explained that next February, Wellington County will be making its bid for the 2016 International Plowing Match.
He said Wellington County councillors have already offered support. Counties and regions host the IPM on a rotating basis, with about 16 years in between matches. Elora was the site of the 2000 IPM.
No Wellington site has been finalized yet, “but there are a few being looked at.”
Some are in the Harriston area, but he added the OPA has the final say about the site location.
“And it’s still five years away,” he said.
Currently, he is in possession of an older plow (as shown on the front cover), dropped off by George Robinson, who led the 2000 IPM committee. Weppler is hoping to restore it as time permits.
Les Darrington is one of the long-standing members of the Wellington County Plowmen’s Association and is currently on the board of directors for the Ontario Plowmen’s Association.
In his report published in this year’s plowing match book, Darrington said, “I’m proud to represent the Wellington County Plowmen’s Association on the OPA board of directors. Thank you for your support, directors and sponsors of our association, for another successful year.”
He offered congratulations to Chornoboy, who will represent Wellington County at the Queen of the Furrow Competition at the 2011 IPM in September in Prescott-Russell.
In her report, Chornoboy reflected upon her year’s involvement as Wellington County’s Queen of the Furrow.
“My year as reigning Wellington County Queen of the Furrow has been one that I will cherish forever. I have met and worked alongside some amazing people, have learned some valuable life lessons, and had experiences that one could only dream of.
“Being an ambassador for agriculture and promoting the farming lifestyle at various events around Wellington County has made me appreciate my background that much more. I am proud to have grown up on a beef and sheep farm all my life with my sisters and my mother. Agriculture has always been a part of my life and being able to share my thoughts and my experiences with those in urban areas has been such a unique experience.”
This year, she represented Wellington County at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, Erin 4-H awards banquet, Elora and Fergus Santa Claus parades, a book release at the Erin library, College Royal at the University of Guelph, Pizza Perfect at Grand River Raceway, was the master of ceremonies at the Wellington County 4-H awards banquet, and many other events.
“As the Queen of the Furrow I also attended the Ontario Plowmen’s Association convention which was held in Guelph. There, I met a multitude of fellow Queens from all over Ontario. It was very interesting to hear about their local matches in their respective counties.”
She made fantastic friends and looks forward to seeing them at the IPM in Prescott-Russell.
“This opportunity, in being the Queen of the Furrow has exposed me to many community events, which I have enjoyed immensely.
“The members of the Plowmen’s Association are some of the finest people I know. As soon as I was crowned Queen of the Furrow I was welcomed with open arms and warm smiles. They have all done so much work for the Wellington County match and they are the backbone to such a great competition. I would like to thank them for all they have done for me, and for all their hard work.”
She continued promoting.
“I encourage you to come out to the Wellington County Plowing Match and experience your local agricultural community first hand. I guarantee you will not regret your choice.”
Weppler added “Come out and join us; there is so much to see at the match.”
With files from the 2011 Wellington County Plowing Match book (produced by the Wellington Advertiser), which is posted in its entirety online at www.wellingtonadvertiser.com.
Vol 44 Issue 32
August 12, 2011
The Wellington Advertiser
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