North Carolina Plowing Contest Helps Preserve Historic Farming Methods
by Jane Hakanson of North Carolina
Though technology will surely continue to change our world, some of the life skills from days gone by are too valuable to be simply relegated to the history books. Some skills from the past must be preserved so that we will not be entirely dependent on modern machines. Also, it is only by knowing our past that we can most clearly understand what is happening in the present.
Many believe that plowing the land with horses and mules is one of the arts from former times that should be carefully preserved. In order to keep the memory of historic farming alive and to help farmers develop and maintain their skills of plowing with draft animals, several organizations have sprung up in various states. One of these is the North Carolina Work Horse and Mule Association, which sponsors several plow days and other related events each year.
Since competition is so effective at motivating people to increase their knowledge and improve their skills, the North Carolina Work Horse and Mule Association began sponsoring a horse-drawn plowing competition in 2009. On June 4, 2011, the Third Annual North Carolina State Championship Horse-Drawn Plowing Contest took place at the historic Ivy Burne Plantation near Linden, North Carolina. Farmers from different parts of the Tar Heel State gathered together that day to demonstrate their skills of plowing with horses and mules and to spend time with other like-minded folks. Spectators enjoyed watching the farmers work the land with specific objectives in mind, such as creating straight furrows without hooks or skips in the plowing, keeping the depths of the furrows uniform, consistently turning stubble and organic matter over so that it would not remain on the surface, keeping the ends of the rows even, keeping the pace steady, and controlling their animals efficiently.
After the 30 by 100 feet plots were plowed by the competitors, the animals were given time to rest, and the crowd came together near the awards table to hear the results. Some people sat on camp chairs, while others sat on bales of hay, as Ronnie Bowen, one of the event coordinators, read the judges’ decisions.
Everyone applauded as Jesse Aldridge was given first place ribbons for both the one-horse walking plow and the team walking plow competitions. Spot Rouse took first place for team plowing using an antique riding plow, and Jerry Weaver was awarded first place for team plowing using a modern riding plow. Roy Hatcher won first place for plowing with three or more horses/mules.
Each first place winner received an award ribbon, a $50.00 cash prize, and an invitation to participate in the U.S. Draft Horse Plowing Contest, which will be held in Dayton, Ohio in September.
Ribbons were also awarded to the competitors who came in the second, third, and fourth places. Roy Hatcher earned second place in the team walking plow category. Spot Rouse grabbed second place and Jimmy Dozier took third place in both of the following categories: (1) team plowing using a modern riding plow, and (2) teams of three or more horses/mules. Margee Stewart was awarded fourth place in the category of team plowing using a modern riding plow.
The accomplishments of these competitors were the result of their hard work, their dedication, their determination, their respect for farm animals, and their love for historic farming practices.
In addition to the sponsorship by the North Carolina Work Horse and Mule Association, many other groups and individuals contributed their time and resources to make this competition plowing day a success. Mule City Specialty Feeds of Benson, North Carolina supplied the banner, the advertising, the stipends for the judges, and the cash prizes for the winners. Bobby and Su Lou Wellons graciously hosted this event on their land and provided a wonderful meal for the association members. Arvin Johnson, Brian Parrish, Pat Sholar, and Carol Woodlief judged the competitions. Ronnie Bowen and Wayne Collier coordinated the event. Indian Ridge Farms of Linden, North Carolina provided the award ribbons. And Bill Garner served as the videographer.
For more information about the North Carolina Work Horse and Mule Association, visit www.ncworkhorseandmulesassociation.com.