Meville McGuire has been staring at the ground for more than 60 years.
Watching the sod turn, checking the depth and, most importantly, seeing that the lines are straight are just a few of the things he needs to do as judge of the 80 th annual Slate River Plowing Match.
“No crooks.,” The 84-year-old from east of Brockville said. “The straighter the plowin’ the better.”
Dragging a mouldboard plow behind a tractor to dig furrows, those endless lines you see on countless miles of farming fields, is an art to McGuire. Modernity has made it possible to farm without turning the sod over. Instead, there are sprays and even seed injections some people use. But for McGuire and those at the match, it’s just not the same.
“People think it’s too much trouble and it’s kind of a dying sport but there’s still some die-hard people that travel just like me,” he said. “The love of seeing the plow done and the competition and the people are so friendly, you meet new people.”
One thing that’s not a factor is speed. Competitors, of which there were two dozen over the weekend, have all day to make sure their field is well done.
“They take all the time in the world,” Slate River Plowman’s Association president Tom Loghrin said.
Loghrin’s wife tells him that watching a field being plowed is like watching paint dry. But for him, it’s a great skill, especially in an age where farms are retiring the plow.
“It’s good to see just how well people can do with a skill that’s been around for a long time,” he said.
McGuire’s father plowed until he was 96. His son is a judge for the International Plowing Match. Keeping the tradition alive is important to him.
It’s also important to the Blekkenhorst brothers.
Along with the competition, the two-day match had displays of antique farming equipment. Art and Leo, who are also directors with the association, grew up farming. They also have a passion for restoring old machines like antique cars. So when they started discovering old tractors, threshers, grinders and binders in old area barns, it was a perfect fit for them.
“It’s close to the heart,” Leo said just before his 1925 thresher started up. “We like restoring old equipment.”
The brothers had about 20 items on display, all in working order thanks to parts they either found, made or had made. While it’s hard to pick a favourite, Leo said an old steel wheel tractor is up there because of how rare it is. As a testament to their handiwork, the machine was still pulling hand plows in the field Saturday afternoon.
“Every one of them has its own character,” he said.
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