FARM23: McGregor 'spoiled' during year as Queen of the Furrow
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
The past year has been the experience of a lifetime for Luanne McGregor, who, after putting her name forward in both the Princess and Queen of the Furrow competitions, broke through last year to win the crown.
At last year’s match, held on the Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh farm of Brian and Annette MacKenzie, McGregor triumphed over a crowded field of young women vying to be the next Queen of the Furrow. McGregor now follows in the footsteps of Maranda Klaver, who was crowned in 2019 and retained the title until 2022, a reign extended by the cancellations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Klaver went on to be crowned Ontario Queen of the Furrow that September at the International Plowing Match (IPM), held in the Ottawa area. She has proven to be a guiding light, invaluable resource and inspiration for both McGregor and last year’s Princess, Jillian Shortreed.
McGregor said that, despite not winning the Princess crown or the Queen crown on her first attempt, her willingness to be part of the competition again and again says something about it. She said she had so much fun and made many friends over the years, which is what kept her coming back to something she could see others shying away from if they were unsuccessful in their first attempt.
She was one of the young women competing against Klaver in 2019 and, when the competition returned in 2022, she was keen to again throw her hat into the ring, despite the loaded field.
Coming back a second time, she said she felt at ease and prepared unlike the 2019 competition and she thinks that maybe helped her performance when it was time to get up on stage. Although, she did acknowledge that every year is different and presents different opportunities and challenges.
McGregor spoke about the farmerette program and even relayed a personal story about a family friend who was connected to the farmerette program, which saw young women step up during the years of World War II and take on on-farm jobs across the province. She researched articles online and read Bonnie Sitter’s book to learn more, and the more she learned, the more inspired she was by what these young women did for the country through agriculture in a time of need.
She even incorporated the family friend into her speech, which was news to the friend that day when she heard McGregor speak.
Out in the field, McGregor even felt more comfortable. While she doesn’t come from a traditional farming background, she has long been a champion for the world of agriculture and now works in the industry. She has seen her involvement in the Queen of the Furrow program as a victory for the non-traditional participants who maybe didn’t grow up on a farm and come from a long line of farming families.
However, she knew enough. McGregor says she knows how to drive a tractor, but, ahead of the 2022 competition, she paired up with her friend and plowing veteran Andrew Fear for some practice alongside members of the 4-H Sodbusters Club at their final tune-up before the big match. At the competition, she was again paired with Fear and McGregor says the two spent their time laughing and having a great time, which kept them both loose throughout the competition.
So, when she was told she had won the competition, she was surprised and elated. She loved attending the different events, including a return to the Seaforth Fall Fair - where she had been its ambassador several years earlier - as well as other opportunities to talk to and connect with other people from the community.
McGregor said she thoroughly enjoyed attending a local Huron County Federation of Agriculture meeting, going to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair with Klaver and Shortreed and speaking with the students at St. Anne’s Catholic Secondary School about the Queen of the Furrow program. The last engagement was particularly fulfilling, as McGregor herself is a former St. Anne’s Eagle.
Meeting and greeting as part of Farm and Food Care Ontario’s Breakfast on the Farm, which took place at farms near both Brussels and Blyth, was also a highlight for McGregor. Not only does she have a familial connection to the Hallahans - the second stop on Breakfast on the Farm - but she was also able to be part of a special funding announcement for agricultural societies from the provincial government with Huron-Bruce MPP and Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson.
She’s now working ahead to this year’s IPM, which will be held in Dufferin County for the very first time. McGregor hopes to do her best and, while she has big shoes to fill, she also has the support and counsel of the current Ontario Queen of the Furrow and McGregor says Klaver has been a tremendous resource and an amazing person to always have in her corner.
She plans to speak about the farmerettes again at the match, as she thinks the importance of that program and women in agriculture has only grown in the past year.
McGregor says she has felt spoiled this past year. Not only has she forged a strong friendship with Shortreed, but the pair has been privy to many events and experiences they wouldn’t normally have access to as a result of Klaver’s win last September. Being part of Klaver’s circle has been great, McGregor says.
With her victory last year, if she accomplished anything, she hopes that it inspires other non-farm kids to get involved in the plowing match. She says you don’t need to be the child of farmers to get involved, you just need to be passionate about agriculture and to be that, you can come from anywhere.