The Wolfe Island Annual Plowing Match
It’s probably too late for me to be a real farm girl, but I’m trying to absorb as much as I can by osmosis. So last weekend we checked out the Wolfe Island Plowmen’s Association’s annual plowing match. I’m still looking for the right words to convey how much I loved this.
Plowing is somewhat going out of style, with no-till farming increasingly common. And the machinery has been improved a lot, to cover more ground faster and more efficiently. But the skill in doing it the old way is still valued and honoured, and there are plowmen’s associations and plowing events at the local, county, provincial, and even national and international levels. The Wolfe Island association dates back to 1956, and the sense of history and community here was palpable.
More than 30 participants congregated on a field on Wolfe Island to show off their skill, and have some fun too. Participants are divided into classes, based mostly on the type of equipment used. The judging measures many factors, measuring how straight and even your furrows are, depth, neatness, and a slew of other technical aspects.
Many were plowing with antique tractors and plows, and pride in the old machines was evident:
A field, its crop already harvested, was marked off into sections, one for each person. There was much discussion about the challenges posed by the clay soil, hard and dry after a hot spell without rain. But this is a rain-or-shine event, and challenging conditions highlight the skill of the plower.
This is hard work, especially if you’re working with one of the antique plows that require a lot of manual effort. All while facing backwards and driving the tractor at the same time.
Terry Linton probably had the hardest job of all, with his horse-drawn plow. Alone in his class, he lamented the decline in the numbers of people competing with horses.
Even with a 4-furrow plow (still small compared to most modern ones) achieving competition-level results is tricky.
The event is a family affair, and everyone comes out to watch and/or help. And/or just hang out in the back of the truck.
98-year-old John Posthumus brought his spinning wheel to keep him busy. Retired from thirty years of competing, he still enjoys being at the event. His sons and grandchildren were participating, and his family provided the field and was working hard to the last minute, tallying the results.
The younger generation is encouraged to keep up the tradition.
The Frontenac County Queen of the Furrow was present. Sarah Campbell raises cows in her 4H club but was getting a lesson in plowing at this event.
At the end of the day, the scores are tallied…
And the winners take home prizes, from a trophy to plaques to highly coveted pies.
Next year, Wolfe Island will host the 2024 Canadian Plowing Championship, sure to be a good time!