From all corners of the province – not to mention the rest of Canada and parts of the U.S. – farmers will soon be rolling into the International Plowing Match & Rural Expo.
Despite the distance – some will be travelling thousands of kilometres – it’s not surprising so many are making the trek to Pain Court in rural southwestern Ontario.
A few will be in pursuit of bragging rights, said Keith Currie, a Collingwood-area hay and sweet corn farmer, and president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. While the five-day event offers everything from a rodeo to a rock concert, it’s still, at its heart, a plowing competition.
“It takes us back to our roots. It’s interesting to see how we’ve evolved,” Emma Richards, Chatham-Kent’s Queen of the Furrow, said last month.
Currie said the IPM has grown over the past 100 years – from a humble competition between horse-drawn plows to the sprawling tent city of today – but noted some aspects remain the same.
“Although agriculture has changed in that amount of time, there’s still that level of competition that’s seeded inside of a lot of people,” Currie said.
“Farmers go for a lot of different reasons. Some for plowing; some for social. Some go to see what’s going on in the agriculture world.”
While there are dozens of farm shows across the province, Currie said the IPM has a different atmosphere, providing a glimpse of farming’s future while celebrating its traditions. With a wide array of vendors, demonstrations and other displays, visitors can check out the latest the industry has to offer, as well as equipment and techniques from a bygone era.
Education also remains an important part of the International Plowing Match.
This year, organizers created a unique display boasting more than 40 crops planted to mature during the IPM, giving city folk a chance to see what broccoli and brussels sprouts actually look like in the field.
Currie, who has attended “quite a few” matches and plans to visit this week, said the event also gives farmers a chance to mingle with policy makers, since Ontario’s top politicians will be making the trip west on Highway 401 to Pain Court.
“This is the one day of the year where Queen’s Park actually breaks in the middle of the week and all the politicians go to the plowing match on the Tuesday,” he said. “Certainly that’s very important too.”
Currie called it crucial to raise awareness about agriculture among young people, as well as those living in Ontario’s towns and cities.
“It’s a great opportunity to get people exposed to actual careers in the agri-food industry that aren’t specific to a farm, but businesses that support the farming industry,” Currie said. “There’s certainly many, many of them.
“There’s a lot of opportunities for school kids to come and look at not only the history of what agriculture is, but what it offers going forward.”
Did you know?
- Pain Court was established in 1854 as one of the earliest French-speaking settlements in southern Ontario.
- Its name means “short bread,” referring to the small loaves that the poor residents gave to Roman Catholic missionaries.
- Located in the ward of North Kent, 11 km from downtown Chatham.
- Features a French-language Catholic elementary school and secondary school.
- St. Clair National Wildlife Area, a popular spot for birders, is located a short drive to the west of the community, providing habitat for 20 wildlife species at risk.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 28,600 feet of temporary waterlines installed to provide potable water
- 250 hydro poles erected attached to approximately 20 kilometres of power lines
- 660 RV sites
- More than 200 vendor sites
- More than 1,000 volunteers
- More than 80,000 people expected to attend