Minto is revving up for some historic plowing during the next 16 months. The Wellington County Plowing Match will be held here on August 20th, and further down the road, in September 2016, will be the International Plowing Match (IPM).
But currently one of the most exciting things is the build-up towards the World’s Plowing Competition in Denmark where Clifford area farmer Carman Weppler will be aiming for a personal best to do honors for Minto, Ontario, and Canada.
The Wellington County Plowing Match is a grassroots level or stepping stone which combines competitive plowing with fun and fellowship. Plowmen from all over Ontario, young and old, will be converging on Harriston loam to compete for top positions with either horse drawn, antique tractors, or state-of-the-art modern equipment. If you want to get serious you have to invest in proper equipment, and time to practice (altho’ practicing at home isn’t the same as being in competition).
Weppler started plowing at the age of 10 when neighbor Larry Picket took him under his wing. The Weppler family had a tractor and Picket had a competition plow. These plows are equipped with a number of extra features that enable the competitor to make necessary adjustments.
Carman started out in the junior division at the Normanby Township Plowing Match. The first year he was badly beaten, but the next year he cleaned house. From there he worked his way up through the County Matches to the Ontario competitive class.
Anyone can plow at the county level. To qualify for the International Plowing Match, a competitor must have accumulated a set number of points from participation at various county matches. Do not get mislead by the word “International”- the IPM is Ontario’s Provincial Match. The word “International” in this name was because of the International Harvester brand of farm machinery, not after a global aspect. The top two winners from the conventional and reversible plowing classes are eligible to go to CanPlow (Canadian Plowing Match) the next summer. Only the first place winners in each class at CanPlow qualify for a spot at the World’s Match the following year.
Carman Weppler currently holds the Ontario and Canadian Conventional Plowing titles – this is the first for a Minto Township farmer and recognized as a first for a Wellington County plowman. Weppler’s coach will be Daryl Hostrawser of Belwood, who went to the World’s in 1988, 1991, and 2002 in the Conventional Class.
Even a seasoned plowman like Weppler must practice. He tries to compete in 2-5 of the County Matches in order to qualify for the IPM, and then do a bit of practicing at home just trying out some different adjustments. Being at the local Matches helps him deal with the stress and adrenaline of competition. Prior to the Canadian’s last year he plowed a land every day for 2 weeks. This is about 2 hours a day of practice time.
When Weppler gets to the World’s in Denmark he must orient himself to many things. He will have to rent a tractor from another plowman who did not win a spot as Denmark’s representative. The conventional plow is shipped from the site of last year’s World Match, so he must quickly get the tractor and plow hooked up and all the settings to his liking. Land has been rented for practise and to become familiar with this new equipment. The Match is on the Northern tip of Denmark against the water so the land is going to be sandy, and Weppler is used to clay loam; that will be his biggest challenge.
There will be two official days of full competition. The first day will be plowing sod and the second plowing stubble. For the team he is looking to gain experience and try to create a new Canadian “best” in the standings.
The competition will be tough. For the European contenders this is their “bread & butter”. These folks plow for a living, it’s considered an occupation, and they get paid to plow – not like the westerners who farm and then plow on the side. Regulations for the World’s plowing are not the same as Canadian, so Weppler will have to learn to utilize some different attachments that he’s not accustomed to using.
How does one feel after that level of winning? Weppler says, “I am really proud of my accomplishments. Growing up I never played other sports or was even in 4-H, so this is a pretty big moment for me. It has meant a lot when the “big guys” (Fried’s, Broadhaecker’s, Timbers, and Hostrawser), that I have always looked up to in the world of Ontario Plowmen, say what a great job I have done. It’s these men who have plowed at CanPlow, and been to the World’s before – and now I am one of them. That’s pretty amazing for me.”
Carman Weppler can actually be considered an Olympian, since he’s a champion in the art/sport/craft of plowing and is now headed to a world competition.
Weppler gives credit to his wife Beth-Ann who told him to get serious and go after his goal. She takes time off work to bring the kids to the Match plow fields. Carman really appreciates the support of his in-laws and parents, who travel around the counties to watch him plow.
In addition to plowing, Weppler has helped with the Queen of the Furrow Competition since he was in high school. He’s usually at the IPM, so it isn’t a big deal to volunteer to do this job. It also gives him a different perspective on how your plow works when you’re working behind it and not driving. A few of the Queens he’s tutored over the years have won the Plowing Competition at the IPM and that “put a little feather in his hat”.
At a recent WCPA Pork Barbeque held at the former Train Station in Harriston, Weppler, his wife and children were presented with gifts helpful for this year’s County, Provincial, and World’s plowing competitions.
The Wellington County Plowmen’s Association welcomes all enthusiastic young women (ages 18 – 25) with an interest in agriculture to enter the Queen of the Furrow competition. This is a great opportunity to gain some valuable interview and public speaking skills. If you have never plowed, or even driven a tractor – no worries, a coach will be available to assist the contestants. The plowing element is symbolic at the match but not essential to success. The Queen of the Furrow winner will have the opportunity to attend various agricultural and community functions throughout the year and most importantly represent Wellington County at the Queen of the Furrow competition at the IPM.
For more information contact Katherine Clyne (519) 323-7294 at least a week before the Wellington County Plowing Match on Thursday, August 20th. This year’s Match will be on County Road 109 between Teviotdale and Harriston.
In order to attract more first-time visitors and increase the day’s activities, new events have been added. There will also be a return of the “Try Plowing” class. Here anyone can “kick up a little dirt” plowing with what they have (or have borrowed).
The Wellington County Match is an introduction to the huge tented city IPM which will be held on the same road in September 2016. Organizers are looking for volunteers to represent the southern part of the county on the various planning committees. Souvenirs will be available at the County Match on August 20th.
The mandate of the various plowing associations is to foster and preserve the art and skill of competitive plowing, and to promote the most important of all agricultural tasks – good soil management. Achieving the elusive perfect furrow continues to challenge plowmen and women in competition – and Wellington has a winner!