HCPM23: After 2020 cancellation, Albers family is ready to host
BY SCOTT STEPHENSON
Finding an appropriate host farm is an essential part of the planning process for any successful plowing match. In addition to having facilities large enough to host the banquet, the location must have just the right fields for the event - a space that is easily accessible by crowds and farm equipment alike, with soil in the right condition to be worked competitively. And, of course, the property owners must be more than happy to accommodate the event. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better fit than Pete and Leisa Albers of Grey Township in Huron East - this year’s Huron County Plowing Match hosts.
Leisa started off by explaining the all-too-familiar delay in their hosting plans. “We were supposed to host actually in 2020, but COVID obviously shut that down. Our son, Peter, started plowing in, I think it was 2018. He got into it quite young, so that was our first experience being involved with a plowing match.”
“My sister hosted in 2016,” recalled Pete. “So maybe that was actually our first plowing match,” Leisa amended.
Peter has just turned 15, which means he first became involved with plowing matches when he was only 10 years old. He started out by becoming involved with the Huron County 4-H Club’s Sodbusters - a plowing-focused youth initiative supported by local plowing dynasty, the McGavin family. Gordon McGavin was a champion plowman who was inducted into the Ontario Agriculture Hall of Fame, while later-generation plowing match legends Brian and Jeff remain active supporters of the culture, offering their expertise to any interested young people, even lending out competition-ready plows to youths ready to learn about the artistry behind the industry at the heart and soul of Huron County.
The Albers’ son’s interest in the precision of plowing may have been put on hold during the pandemic, but in all that time, it never waned. “COVID slowing things down means that he’s only had two or three years of plowing experience in the past five years. But he is going to plow again this year,” Leisa elucidated. So, how does a newcomer excel in the exciting world of competitive plowing? Oddly enough, it’s the same route as the one to Carnegie Hall - practice!
After being denied the experience of hosting the 2020 Huron County Plowing Match, 2023 is the perfect year for the Albers to take another swing at it - the triskelion pattern of crop rotation means that the Albers field has transitioned from wheat (the crop-de-rigueur for any self-respecting plowing match) to corn in 2021, followed by soybeans in 2022, which brings their fields back to the necessary wheat in 2023. “It’s a rotation of every three years, of course,” said Leisa.
The Albers are overjoyed to get another shot at being a part of this rich local tradition, even though it is a lot of work in the days leading up to the event. Facilities to successfully house the banquet and lunch and room for presentations from the Princess and Queen of the Furrow competitors is essential, which, for the Albers family, means finding accommodating neighbours willing to temporarily take in the various pieces of farm equipment that would normally inhabit those spaces.
The Albers believe strongly in the power of community groups like the 4-H Club, and hope that more and more young people will catch the spirit and enjoy the benefits like their son Peter has. “Just get out and try it!” is their shared sentiment.
For anybody who’s seen the Albers’ property, it’s clear that the space is an ideal one for the upcoming plowing match. The facilities that will be used to house the banquet and speeches are ready to go, and in very close proximity to the fields the competitors will be plowing. “I think this is the perfect opportunity to host this event,” said Leisa.
Pete also has high hopes for the future of competitive plowing in the area. “Hopefully they can keep appealing to young kids the way they have year after year,” he said. “The Sodbusters is a great feeder program for it,” added Leisa. The Albers family is especially excited to be hosting the Huron County Soil and Crop Improvement Association as a first-time addition to the event - the group will be on hand offering demonstrations of the latest soil conservation techniques.
Pete and Leisa are also grateful for the excellent efforts of the Brussels Leo Club and the Brussels Optimist Club for providing support throughout the match, and are hoping for a great turnout. “I’m hoping for at least 400 people for the supper” said Pete. “Well, I only have seating for 300 people,” Leisa reminded him. “Well, I like to set my sights high,” he responded.
If you want to try to snag a spot at the HCPM, head on over to the Albers farm in Grey Township on Aug. 17-18.