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:

Two men with a smiling yellow labrador retriever stand in a field of crop stubble,  in front of an antique red tractor with an antique 2-furrow plow.

A man with stands in a field of crop stubble,  in front of an antique red tractor with a red umbrella over its seat.

A smiling man in flannel shirt and cap is driving an antique red tractor pulling an antique plow.

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.

Three tractors are each plowing their own small section of a field

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.

a man stands on the platform of a green tractor, facing behind it, with one hand on the lever that controls the furrows in his antique plow.

a man stands on the platform of a red tractor, facing behind it, with one hand on the lever that controls the furrows in his antique plow.

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.

A man walks behind two big horses, one gray and one dark brown, that are pulling a hand-operated plow. He has a strap around his back to hold the reins.

Even with a 4-furrow plow (still small compared to most modern ones) achieving competition-level results is tricky.

A woman driving a blue tractor is looking back through the rear window of the cab to watch her 4-furrow plow and the plowed ground.

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.

Five young children hanging out in the back of a black pickup truck

Four adults standing in a field of stubble, watching as a tractor starts plowing the field in front of them.

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.

An elderly man wearing a WWII baseball cap sits under a blue sun shelter operating a small spinning wheel.

The younger generation is encouraged to keep up the tradition.

A girl in green tshirt operates a green tractor, looking down at the plowed ground beside her.

A boy in a red shirt leans forward in the seat of an orange tractor with front shovel lifted in the air, pulling a plow.

A six year old wearing reflective sunglasses sits at the wheel of a red tractor, his father standing beside him with one hand on the wheel and looking back at the furrow they have just plowed.

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.

A woman wearing a tiara and blue sash sits on a John Deere tractor

At the end of the day, the scores are tallied…

Two women sit at a table working with calculators and scoresheets

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!

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1 Response

  1. Mimi Niemiller says:

    Nice way to spend the day. Like how they’re keeping the knowledge of plowing going.

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