Dennis Ryan of Westwold

Dennis Ryan of Westwold

Plowing match gets down to earth

The Chilliwack Plowing Match is being held this year on May 11 in Abbotsford, same time and place as the Canadian Plowing Championship.

This Saturday, farmers will put their plowing equipment to the test to create the straightest, most exact furrows on a nearby farm.

The Chilliwack Plowing Match is being held this year on May 11 in Abbotsford, same time and place as the Canadian Plowing Championship.

The fun will extend to spectators, as there will be hay rides around the competition field, a horseshoeing demonstration from a local farrier, a cook shack, and new farm equipment on display from local dealers.

Draft horses, and antique and modern tractors, will provide the photo opportunities on the expectedly sunny Saturday.

The tractor portion of the Chilliwack match will include carefully restored antique tractors pulling plows, put to use specifically for the competition. There will also be a round for tractor drivers under 16 years of age, and a round where people walk the plow behind a driven tractor.

For the draft horse portion, horses will pull a hand-walked plow.

To win the competition, most important is to concentrate, and plow straight.

“It has to be straight. When you have horses, if one horse doesn’t concentrate for a moment…looks at a bird or something, then immediately the straight line is out,” said draft horse judge François Freyvogel.

Other judging criteria include making sure that there are as few weeds as possible in the turned over soil of the quarter acre or so plot. The overall “crown” of 12 furrows also needs to look good.

Because contestants plow a very small area for the competition, attention to detail matters.

“You have to start into the plot very exact, and you have to come out very exact at the other end of the plot,” said Freyvogel.

Using draft horses is becoming a farming art form, as tractors take over.

“There’s nothing finer if you walk behind a team of draft horses, you have beautiful weather like it’s coming (this weekend), you have horses that have that wonderful smell around them, you have that leather harness in your hand, and you turn over the fresh soil. What is more beautiful?” said Freyvogel.

The Chilliwack competition is being held in Abbotsford to merge with the nationals, and because there wasn’t a field large enough available in Chilliwack, as many farmers are already using their lands.

Teams are coming from all over B.C., Canada, and some from the States, to compete.

The Canadian Plowing Championships are taking place May 8–11, overlapping with the Chilliwack match on the Saturday.

Sixteen teams will compete with conventional and reversible plows to work the same-sized plot of land in under three hours.

“Most of us do it for fun. We all want to win, but we can’t all. So we do it for fun, and we enjoy the people,” said Francis Sache, a competitor for over a decade, and current president of the B.C. Ploughing Association.

The activities on Saturday will start at 10 a.m. at a private farm at Highway 11 and Fore Road in Abbotsford, just south of the Mission bridge. Admission is $5, free for those under 12.