Plowing, Planning, & Progress- IPM 2016

By Willa Wick in Community, Places, Events, & History

What is it, where is it, how do I get there?  Curious enough questions, but at this stage of the game, when they’re directed towards the initials I.P.M., then it’s time for concern and maybe a little primer on the evolution of the Plowing Match.


After three years in the planning stages Wellington County is proud to be hosting the 2016 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo.  But whoa, this isn’t just a farming venue or a man-thing – it’s a week of activities garnered to catch the interest of school children and young adults as well as events for women and reminiscing for seniors.  The IPM is an annual adventure now held in late September (in the early 1900s it was November, later moved forward to the week after Thanksgiving).

September was chosen because the weather would hopefully still be decent.  Being close to Fall Fair time helps to promote the inaugural early 1900s mandate of educating the public.


True, the IPM is a rural show as it has to be held in a large wide open country space.  This year’s match will find itself on beautiful flat harriston loam in the Town of Minto, half way between Harriston and Teviotdale on County Road 109.


Each county has a Plowmen’s Association and when they feel the time is right they make application including proposed location, sponsors, financing and minimal program outline to the governing body the OPA (Ontario Plowmen’s Association).  The winning bid is announced and planning begins three years in advance.  Naturally each committee tries to showcase the best the county has to offer and make their week the Match to Remember.


It boggled the mind of the committee members when recently they heard a local voice ask, “What  does IPM stand for?”, and then “what is that?”


The prelude to IPM 2016 has signage, advertisements, and souvenirs in Minto’s colors of lime green and royal blue.  Business cards, bookmarks and posters keep us up-to-date on upcoming events, while unique souvenirs, like the royal blue mittens, promoted the county from the parliament buildings in Toronto to as far away as the hot springs in Iceland.


The whole Plowing Match idea started back in the 1800s when bantering farmers would rival one another to see who could have the neatest and straightest plowed land (a good looking tilled field was an indicator of a proud and successful farmer, and was also an insight into the physical strength and skill of the man).  Walking behind a wood, iron or steel plow pulled by oxen or horses, was extremely physically challenging.


In very early European times in order to make a seed bed, a device of little more than an curved and pointed solid oak branch was used to scrape a furrow not much more than half an inch deep.  In the matches in Britain in 1816 not only did competitors plow, but awards were given.  Prizes were allotted to the carpenter (yes, the original animal drawn plows were wooden), or plowmaker who produced the best and cheapest plow made by himself and gathered contracts to supply the public with similar  plows at the same price.


During the bruising depression years the Irish tried to lessen the population anxiety level by instigating debates on comparing the skills of the men who tilled the land.  The challenge ditty was “one more sow, one more cow, one more acre under the plow”.  Ballads were composed about plowmen and contests held throughout the land.  From there in 1931 the National Ploughing Association was formed which was the first in the world to organize matches on a national level with standardized rules and regulations.


Here in Ontario, in January 1911 a group of 64 enthusiastic gentlemen gathered in Toronto, and after much discussion laid the cornerstone for the OPA (Ontario Plowmen’s Association). Some objectives in their constitution included:  advancing the interests of agriculture, and giving greater attention to the cultivation of soil and disseminating information on fertilization.   It was also recommended that members encourage farmer’s sons to become expert plowmen.  To further the goals the main intent was to establish branch associations, and to initiate township, county and eventually provincial plowing matches.    In one form or other these are still the primary functions of the OPA.  Over time, in order to make the Plowing Match more enticing, shows, demonstrations of new and progressive farm machinery, and educational exhibits were added as well as the lifestyles display, children’s fun and learning area, and Queen of the Furrow competitions.  Each IPM has a theme with the 2016 slogan being “A Fresh Taste of Farming”.


The week long events don’t just “happen”.  The 2016 event has 57 planning committees with volunteers from across the county. While that number may sound a little unbelievable, it’s often the behind-the-scenes responsibilities that one overlooks.  With representation from one end of Wellington to the other the IPM will be showcased as a well oiled community and provincial event.


In the months leading up to the Match there’s a scheduled line of activities to arouse the heightened anticipation level.  Many activities have already passed like the Quilt Block Challenge which drew 80 competitors from all over Ontario. The Cook Book launch was last fall and at just $10 the sales have already been in excess of 4500 books.

The Harriston Historical Society had a huge month-long exhibit of Plowing Match artifacts, posters, scrapbooks, past and present souvenirs, and a Queen of the Furrow display.  Carman Weppler was the society’s guest at an information meeting where he described how to be a plow competitor, how to progress, and the honor he received for himself and Wellington when he advanced to the “World’s” last fall.


There was a rain barrel fundraiser with delivery made June 4th just in time for the summer gardening season.  April 30th saw a Kick-Off Concert in Drayton, and Wellington Queen of the Furrow Allison Witzel has attended many functions where the Social Media Committee had an information and souvenir booth.

More recently there was the fun-filled Touch-a-Truck sponsored by the Minto Fire Department where a full line of IPM souvenirs was available, and a week later there was a Door Wreath Making Workshop in the popular Minto lime green and royal blue colors.


Many more activities will be taking place during the next several weeks where the IPM will have a presence, notably a float with the Queen of the Furrow in the Elora Canada Day Parade;  July 8th and 9th at Drayton Smoke‘n Sounds, and at the Mount Forest Fireworks Festival July 16th.

2016 Plowing Match Executive: (Back row from left) Ross Wilkie, Keith Clyne, Ray Tout, Ron Faulkner, Bill White, George Robinson, Don Priest. (Front) Gord Duff, Jamie Halzle, Annilene McRobb, Walter Trachsel, Teri White, Callise Foerter, Valerie Hruska, Cathy Lasby.

2016 Plowing Match Executive: (Back row from left) Ross Wilkie, Keith Clyne, Ray Tout, Ron Faulkner, Bill White, George Robinson, Don Priest. (Front) Gord Duff, Jamie Halzle, Annilene McRobb, Walter Trachsel, Teri White, Callise Foerter, Valerie Hruska, Cathy Lasby.

Rain is always a threat to make a muddy mess of any Plowing Match but only the 1937 match is recorded as having snow every day.


The tented city as it is known grows every year and there are hundreds of acres of exhibitors, vendors, food stands, entertainment, and historical artifacts.  Sections are assigned for lifestyles and skills such as cooking and crafts, plus room for the1200 RV park spots.  Special times are set aside for University of Guelph students to witness the future in agriculture, and kids from every school in Wellington are invited to attend.  Just two of the highlights will be the world renowned RCMP Musical Ride, and a helicopter display and trips.  An auction for a large commemorative brass bell donated by the Wellington County Plowman’s Association will be held in September.


At the annual W.C.P.A. banquet a few years ago the impromptu question posed to the Queen of the Furrow contestants asked if they could make a suggestion to highlight plowing events at the IPM.  More than one response came back with the idea of locating the plowing activities near the entrance so people could observe the land tilling on the first leg of their journey.  If you’ve been to a match before but never bothered to walk over where the plowing takes place, make this your year of change and witness first-hand the art and precision of horse and tractor tillage and learn how it has evolved over the decades with the advent of new and bigger equipment.




Last fall a challenge went out for quilt blocks depicting a theme ‘Thirty Shades of Green”.  In answer the IPM Quilt Committee received 80 entries from around the province.  These were made into two very large 30-block quilts plus two smaller ones.


Right on its heels came preparations for the IPM Quilt show “A Fresh Taste of Quilting”, and from that competition 140 submissions were received with entrants in all ten categories plus the budding youth

Class.  As with the earlier ‘block’ challenge, the entries to the quilt show (nearly double the block entries) came from all around the province not just Wellington County.  The age of the entrants spanned teenagers right up to dyed-in-the-wool quilters in their 90s.  New exhibitors will be featured right alongside their veteran quilter counterparts.


The Fresh Taste of Quilting invited contestants to design and name their own interpretation of the theme.  There were 17 entries in the wall hanging categories, and approximately 30 in each of the various sub headings of landscape, pictorial, miniature and baby.  Naming the work was just as creative as the designs themselves with titles like Quite the Spectacle, The Octopus Garden, Rainbow Splash, and Baby Pickles.


The day before the August show the judges will have the daunting task of determining the top three winners in each class.  A high calibre of work was submitted to vie for the nearly $5000 worth of prizes as donated by local individuals, community organizations, businesses and various quilt shops and guilds.


All 140 quilts will be artistically showcased at the two-day IPM Quilt Show on Friday and Saturday, August 19th (10 a.m.– 6 p.m.) and 20th (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) at the Harriston Curling Club in the Community Centre Complex, (111 George Street South).  A Merchant Mall will also be set up to include quilting supplies, and in true quilt show fashion, a tea room where visitors can sit and relax while thinking which work of  art captured their attention the most to receive their vote for the People’s Choice Award.  The value of the showcased quilts has been estimated at around $135,000.


IPM Quilt raffle tickets are available.  Prizes include the two large Thirty Shades of Green quilts (each block has the creator’s name on the reverse).  An additional prize is a Bernina 330 sewing machine generously donated by Bernina Canada


In the Quilt Tent during the IPM week these creations will be on display under plastic along with the block challenge quilts for the raffle.  Draw will take place during closing ceremonies on Saturday afternoon September 24th.


Hundreds of volunteers are excited to be part of this organizational effort to showcase Wellington County during the 2016 IPM and Rural Expo week of September 20th – 24th.

Don’t you think you should go?