Perfect plowing match
The completed wheat harvest on 50 of Linda and Paul Vogel’s 700 acres in Apple Hill left a wide field of stubble open for Sunday’s 2017 Glengarry Plowing Match.
Over 175 people took advantage of the perfect cloudless day to see a lost art with 30 plowers in five categories using modern and vintage tractors and horse-drawn plows competing against each other to plow the cleanest and straightest furrows.
The turnout of contestants was the best in years, up more than 30 per cent over last year’s Glengarry match, with plowers attending to fulfill their local match eligibility in order to advance to the upcoming 100th anniversary edition of the International Plowing Match (IPM) and Rural Expo in Walton (Huron County), Ontario, Sept. 19-23.
Among the plowers was 2017 Glengarry Queen of the Furrow Stephanie Allen, who was meeting the IPM requirement that contestants must have competed at their local branch association’s Queen of the Furrow competition.
Ms Allen, who is originally from Maxville and now lives in Apple Hill, gave every appearance of being a seasoned plower, handling the clutch with ease. Watching and filming her were her parents, Dale and Carol-Ann Allen, who revealed that this was their daughter’s very first time driving a tractor.
“This morning, she thanked me for making sure she learned how to drive standard transmission,” said her father.
When asked how she managed to plow such a straight line, Ms Allen laughed and said, “Ian Vallance! If it wasn’t for him I couldn’t have been able to do it, let’s be real.” She was referring to her coach Ian Vallance of Dalkeith, a multi-time plowing award winner who competed on Saturday as a warmup for later this month in Walton.
Ms Allen’s boyfriend is Jakob Vogel, Linda and Paul’s son, and it’s Jakob’s sister Crystal, Glengarry’s 2012 IPM Queen contestant, who suggested that Stephanie submit an application for Glengarry Queen.
“I decided to give it a go and I’m having a blast,” said Ms Allen, still beaming after her plowing session.
“I’m in a farming family now so it’s time to make myself more known in the agricultural community,” said Ms. Allen who graduated in 2016 from Nipissing's Schulich School of Education and now supply teaches. With her sunny personality, confidence and speaking skills, she will be a contender when she competes with 24 Queens of the Furrow from across Ontario for the title of Ontario IPM Queen of the Furrow.
A special treat for match-goers on Saturday were three fine teams of draft horses. Walking behind his father-in-law’s two powerful Percherons was Samuel Bourgon of Cedar Pond Farm in Dalkeith, a big, quiet-natured man with a keen eye and a gentle hand at the reins.
The love of draft horses and offering visitors a slice of living history crosses family generational lines with the Bourgons. Plowing the furrows next to Samuel was his father, horseman Stéphane Bourgon of Casselman, with two handsome Belgians under rein.
Mr. Bourgon has been plowing with horses for 25 years and works for Guy Machabee of Gentle Giant Stables in St-Albert, a Brabant and Belgian breeder and draft horse trainer. The Belgian team, brothers Ben, 8, and Prince, 7, are Mr. Machabee’s most prized pair.
In the third horse class competition area was Samuel Bourgon’s father-in-law Georges Dupuis sitting on an antique riding plow drawn by a team of well-muscled Canadian Horses. And seated nearby watching the horses and plowmen was his grandfather Georges Bourgon who recalls his father’s work horses on the farm.
“We’re all into horses,” says Samuel Bourgon with an easy smile.
There were seasoned tractor plowmen at the match including Ron Stinson from North Gore who has attended every IPM for over 40 years.
Nancy Binnie from Bell’s Corners watched her husband Andy Fytche drive a 1950 McCormick W-4 drawing a red two-furrow Massey-Harris Model 26 plow with steel wheels which originally would have been painted green.
The match’s judge was Ross MacGillivray of Dalkeith, one of the event’s organizers and a respected Ontario and Canadian plowing judge with a eagle eye for an artfully straight furrow.
“Ross keeps the heritage going and does a good job,” says Linda Vogel.
“Because ploughing is not what we do a lot of anymore, it's because of him we can get this many people out to see it.”
The event included a tasty barbecue under a big tent presented by board members Linda Vogel and Tiffany McIntosh, and volunteers. Plowing stopped for the lunch offering contestants and visitors the chance to talk about their memories of ploughing
For Linda Vogel, the plowing match is a chance to reflect on how much farming has changed.
“Like I said to my son Jakob this morning when we were walking up beside the horses and the walking ploughs, ‘Can you imagine if we had to work our field like that, these days when we jump in the tractor with air conditioning and go to the field and you’re done in no time at all.’ This field of wheat had 50 acres of wheat that we started on Friday afternoon and we were finished by Saturday morning.”
No-till, reduced-till methods and modern equipment have revolutionized crop farming, but nostalgia for the plow, an implement that dates back 5,000 years, carries emotional meaning not just for people who remember their father’s or grandfather’s old Farmall or Allis-Chalmers or Fordson tractor.
Take Andy Fytche who started plowing competitively two years ago in the Antique Trail Plow class. His 1950 McCormick W-4 was slated for the scrap yard when he bought it.
“It was running, I drove it onto the trailer,” says Mr. Fytche who competed in four matches this summer including Saturdays.
Last year’s IPM attendance topped 90,000.
This year’s in Huron County, the most agriculturally productive county in Ontario, and celebrating the 100th anniversary of the plowing match and Canada’s 150th birthday, could easily be a record breaker and more power to “the way we did it way back when.”
COMING HOME: Samuel Bourgon of Cedar Pond Farm in Dalkeith walks behind his father-in-law Daniel Lapensée's Percheron team during Saturday’s Glengarry Plowing Match, which took place on Paul and Linda Vogel’s property near Apple Hill. His efforts won him the Walking Plow Class championship.
PLOWING MATCH: Andy Fytche of Bell's Corner's plows with his 1950 McCormick W-4 and twofurrow Massey-Harris Model 26 plow. At right, Glengarry Queen of the Furrow, Stephanie Allen from Apple Hill, honed her plowing skills at the match. Ms Allen is one of 25 contestants from across Ontario who will be competing later this month for the title of Ontario IPM Queen of the Furrow at the 100th anniversary edition of the International Plowing Match (IPM) and Rural Expo in Walton, Ontario.