By Dan Rankin
As the 88th annual Huron County Plowing Match wraps up at the Hayden family farm in Ashfield Township this evening, preparations are already underway here in Perth County for our own annual Plowing Match. It is set to take place tomorrow in the Wallace Ward of North Perth, at #5711, Line 87 Listowel, on the property of cash crop farmer John Berlett.
“We have a large facility here, with a grain elevator on the farm, so we have lots of parking and facilities to host something like this,” Berlett said Tuesday, on a break from cleaning up a shed set to house Saturday’s banquet. The head steward of the 2015 Perth County match, Bartley Bowman, approached Berlett about hosting the event this past winter.
If they get the sunny weather that’s been forecast for Saturday, Berlett expects at least 200-300 people to come out for the day. “We’re sort of between crops now; most of the wheat’s off and the beans aren’t ready, so it gives a farmer something to do in the down time,” he joked.
Perth County Plowmen’s Association Secretary Bryan Bertrand explained how the location for the plowing matches is decided each year. “We try to move it around the county as much as possible, but it also depends on which end of the county Huron is having theirs on, because they have theirs the day before ours,” he said. “A lot of the antique guys and other contestants like to bring their equipment over and leave it there overnight for the next morning. We try to stay on the same end of the county as they are.”
Last year the Huron County and Perth County matches took place near Walton and Monkton, respectively.
Bertrand, whose father helped organize the annual Perth County match and who has now been involved with it for more than 50 years, said this year with his son and grandson attending he’ll “have three generations plowing again this year.”
As for Berlett, he said his family has been farming in Wallace Township since the mid-1800s, making him a sixth generation farmer. “My son Jeff is actually running the business now,” he said. “I’m kind of taking a back seat. He had a son last year, Jase. So there’s a seventh generation farmer and maybe an eighth.” John’s father Jack turns 90 today.
Most of the competitive plowing will run between 9:30 am to 2:30 pm, Bertrand said. He expected between 40 and 50 contestants, hailing from numerous counties around the region, from Bruce and Grey to Elgin and Middlesex. The types of plowing being demonstrated range from one-furrow to four or more, and from horse-drawn rigs to modern tractors; there’s even an antique class for tractors 59 years and older.
After the main competition, novelty classes and the Queen of the furrow competition follow, before a banquet barbecue meal. “It’s usually over and done by about 7:00 pm, but if anybody wants to see the plowing and displays, they should be there before 1:00 pm,” Bertrand said.
There is no admission fee and parking is free.
Among the vendors expected to set up displays tomorrow are large farming equipment dealers, recreational vehicle dealers and, “It’s an election year so I can almost guarantee we’ll have some of the parties out,” Bertand added. Kid’s programming will include a one-furrow plow children old enough to sit in a tractor can try out for prizes.
During the day, the local 4-H Club will operate a lunch booth. Tickets for the barbecue dinner are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. Bertrand reccomended calling to reserve dinner tickets, as only 100 are being printed. For tickets, call Bertrand at 519-229-6745, email him him at email@example.com, or call Perth County association treasurer Deb Little at 519-301-3418.