Junior Ploughing Match Brings Out the Best

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by Lorraine Payette, written September 4, 2013

(LANSDOWNE, ON) – The Modler farm in Lansdowne was roaring with tractors as ploughs split the soil and opened the earth on August 30. Thirty-six young drivers were participating in a good natured competition between Leeds and Grenville as the 4-H held its Junior Ploughing Match, coinciding with the 100th Anniversary of the International Ploughing Match.

“It isn’t a good day for ploughing,” said Caleb Carmichael, 11, as he turned clods to help straighten a line. “The soil is too dry, and has a lot of clay. The ploughs aren’t heavy enough to break through, and you need at least two men standing on them to make the split.”

While this is an impressive amount of information from anyone, it just isn’t expected from one so young. Unless, of course, you are talking to a member of the 4-H Ploughing Club.

“The ploughing was very hard, but everyone did a great job,” said Brenda Dunster, leader. “For some of the 4-H members, this was the first time they had ever ploughed in a match and some of them had never driven a tractor until four weeks ago.”

Four weeks? That certainly isn’t a lot of time to master such an important skill, but there they were, working like pros and getting the job done.

“We’re very grateful to the Plowmen’s Association and all its members who make this possible, as well as the 4-H leaders,” said Deborah, Dawson Fleming’s mother. “No matter what, we will always need farmers. The attendance in 4-H and the dedication of the leaders is creating a lot of happiness and faith in a solid future.”

Dawson from Addison has loved farming ever since he was ten months old and could walk to the barn.

“He’s been going there ever since, dreaming about tractors and saving his money for an Oliver, which is his favourite,” said his mother, Deborah. “His first ploughing match was last year when he was nine-years-old, and he won as the youngest plougher and best ploughing in his division.”

But that was just a start. With some guidance from his family, he approached his uncle and cousin (both Oliver collectors) about buying his first tractor, a 1944 Oliver 70 Row Crop, with ploughs. This year he drove his own equipment in the match, determined to show he could still produce a prize winning furrow.

“He’s very excited this year, having his own tractor” said Deborah.

Gail Henry was just as proud and excited about her 15-year-old son, Dillon.

“This will be his third year with Grenville 4-H,” said Henry. “My young lad’s not into other sports like hockey and that, so with 4-H he’s learned to plough, he can cook, he can even sew, which is nice, and 4-H is just something they really enjoy. The kids learn a lot of life skills, and it’s all hands on. There’s a little bit of bookwork, but most of it they get in and do.”

Have you ever wondered where you’d be without the farmer? From vegetables to fruits to grains, meat and dairy and everything in between, we would all starve to death without the farmers of the world.

But where do we get these people? How do we train them? How do we end up getting the very best in the profession to continue on generation after generation, reaching out and feeding us all?

The 4-H is an amazing place to start.

“We’re ploughing against the Leeds 4-H club,” said Henry. “They have about 20 or so kids here and we have 13 kids here today. It’s all for fun – they enjoy it.”

Boys and girls participate equally, and it doesn’t matter if you live on a farm or in the heart of town. All are welcome to participate.

“The first thing they have to do is their opening split, which is to go up and back once to open the ground,” said Henry. “After that, they have to wait and share the tractor with someone else. Then they do the crown, which is three times up and back, and then they finish off their plots with general ploughing. They’re judged on all of that, depth, how much grass is showing, and a whole lot more.”

The sport is extremely competitive, and making the kids share equipment not only helps teach good sportsmanship, it also makes sure there is no equipment advantage. The competition is based entirely on the skill of the competitors.

“I’m here to judge all of the ploughing, help the children if they have questions and try to answer them for them, and try to make sure they’re good sports,” said Melville McGuire of Spencerville. “Win or lose, there’s always something good about their ploughing. We don’t run anybody down – instead, we say ‘You can make it better if you do this.’ The kids need to know you get far more help by being polite and respectful than you ever will by yelling and being mean.”

McGuire is 85 and lives in the house he was born in. He has been an official judge for the Ontario Ploughman’s Association (OPA) for about thirty years, having judged Queen of the Furrows, the Prime Minister’s, everybody as far as North Bay and Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Renfrew, Lanark, down east at Storemont, Dundas, almost everywhere in the province.

“I was the one that started the 4-H ploughing at the Internationals around the year 2000,” said McGuire. “It took me three years of hard work at the winter meetings to get permission to have the 4-H, because that’s the future of the International Ploughing Match. Now they call it Junior Ploughing, but it’s the same thing.”

The awards were broken down into two classes, junior and senior. The senior class consisted of ploughers aged 16 to 21. There were 9 competitors, with the Champion plough-person bring Carley Shane and the Reserve plough-person Brandon Pattimore. The junior class, ages 9 to 15, had Champion plough-person Gavin Purcell and the reserve plough-person was Emily Kelly. Twenty-seven competed in the junior class.

“All the members won prize money with the top winners winning a trophy,” said Brenda Dunster. “Members also enjoyed a barbecued lunch. Later in the afternoon a group picture was taken as everyone enjoyed a piece of cake.

“All of this would not have been possible without the help of the Leeds Plowmen’s Association. Lunch was provided by Lynch’s Slaughterhouse and Purcell’s Freshmart. Thanks to all the Plowmen, volunteers, parents, the judges and everyone else that helped make this first ever Regional 4-H plough-day a huge success.”

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