International Plowing Match: Past and Present

September 10, 2018 | TRL ARTS

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Have you ever attended a plowing match?

In 1999, I attended the International Plowing Match and Rural Expo (IPM) in Dashwood, Ontario along with tens of thousands of visitors. It was quite spectacular! This year's event is being held in Chatham-Kent near Pain Court, Ontario. It runs September 18-22

It's not just about plowing furrows either! At the International Plowing Match you can check out square dancing tractors, the "Future of Farming" tent, music, art, antiques and even Guinness World Record attempts.

Black and white photo of older man plowing a field with two horses
 Andrew MacRobbie demonstrates the horse-drawn plow event in Meaford, Ontario, 1987

Origin and Vintage Images

In 1911, a group of plowmen local to York fully conceived of The International Plowing Match. The first two International Matches in 1913 and 1914 were situated on Sunnybrook Farm, Toronto, York County. Since then, it has been hosted across Ontario. (Here's a list of communities that have previously held the Match and Rural Expo.) Getting to host the match is a boon for rural communities. The 2018 match will mark the third time Chatham-Kent has been the host. It hosted in 1919 and again in 1979. 

Tractor pulling a wagon full of plow match visitors
Farm show harvests fine crop of visitors in Stratford, Ontario, 1988
Aerial view of geometric patterns plowed
Pattern of plows, International Plowing Match in Oshawa, Ontario, 1975

Due to World War Two the International Plowing Match did not take place from 1942-1945. The first match after the war was held in 1946 at an airfield in Goderich, Ontario .

Two women look into an old fashioned stroller
Spectators at the first match since the war in Goderich, Ontario, 1946

Below is an award ribbon that would have been presented during the 1917 IPM held at Oak Park Stock Farm, Brantford, Brant County.

Red ribbon reading Provincial plowing match 1917  Oak Park Farm  For Home and Country  God Save the King
Award ribbon from Brantford, Ontario, 1917



Poster of Internation Plowing Match and Farm Machinery Demonstration  with graphics and photos and dates for the the Peterborough event (2)
Posters from 1932 (left) and 1941 (right). Source: Ontario Plowmen's Association


Ontario's agricultural history is long and rich. (You can also explore this topic in Toronto Public Library's Digital Archive!) The International Plowing Match is an opportunity to experience some of it. If you're looking for an overnight road trip destination at the end of  summer, I'd recommend a trip to Pain Court, Ontario to visit the 2018 International Plowing Match Festivities.

And for those who want to get a feel for the nitty-gritty rules for the competitions, look no further than  this excerpt from the International Plowing Match and Rural Expo 2018 Rules and Regulations:

15. Crown
a) In the Horse Classes for one-furrow plows, the crown shall consist of six (6) heavy rounds (12 furrows), after which the contestant shall cast off. Horse plowing will be judged out of 180 points.
b) In Tractor Classes, the Crown shall consist of four heavy rounds for two furrow plows and three heavy rounds for three or more furrow plows after which the contestant shall commence to cast off. When lands are too narrow to permit the application of this definition, same may be modified by the Steward in charge of the class. (Contestants in Class 4 will plow a larger lot if land is available)
c) A double scratch will be allowed but rule 14 (i) will apply.