Wiersma rounds out presidential term with 2023 Plowing Match
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
This year’s Huron County Plowing Match, held on the home farm of Pete and Leisa Albers in Huron East, will mark the end of a successful and extended presidency of the Huron County Plowmen’s Association for Brian Wiersma.
Next year, Wiersma will make way for Steve Hallahan, who has been a member of the association for several years. His daughter, Grace, was crowned Huron County Princess in 2019 and spent several years (throughout the COVID-19 pandemic) representing the association at numerous events and functions. Hallahan is the current first vice-president, so his two-year term as president will begin ahead of the 2024 match, with Ross McIntosh waiting in the wings in the second vice-president position, poised to take on the presidency ahead of the 2026 match, should he choose to continue on that path.
Wiersma was set to serve a two-year term at the helm of the Huron County Plowmen’s Association, but the COVID-19 pandemic had other ideas. The 2020 match - originally scheduled to be held at the farm of Pete and Leisa Albers, the site of this year’s match after a three-year crop rotation has again resulted in optimal plowing match conditions - was cancelled and the 2021 match was closed to the public with strict guidelines regarding travel, participation, sanitation and safety in place.
Last year’s match, held at the Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh farm of Brian and Annette MacKenzie, represented the first opportunity for the association to host a match that attendees and participants had come to know and love prior to 2020. The association membership then consulted with Wiersma and offered him another year on his term to achieve the full experience of hosting two proper plowing matches and he accepted.
This year, he’s proud to be able to return to the Albers site, saying it will be another great addition to the plowing match legacy of Huron County. His only wish, which is the same every year in regards to the plowing match, is for good weather. Good weather changes everything for an outdoor, agriculturally-focused event like the plowing match.
Reflecting on last year’s match, which saw as high an attendance as most association members could recall in recent years, Wiersma said it was “awesome” to return to normal and host a traditional match, complete with an awards banquet and the crowning of a new Princess and Queen of the Furrow.
On that point, he says it has been so great for the county and for the association to have new Queen of the Furrow Luanne McGregor and Princess Jillian Shortreed representing the group and the community, in addition to the exposure Huron County has had as a result of Maranda Klaver’s Ontario Queen of the Furrow win last fall, making her just the fourth Huron County Queen to triumph at the provincial level.
He also thinks it’s great that the match has moved around during its time, serving all of the county. In just the last few years, he said, the match was in Howick, Central Huron and Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh and now in Huron East. Next year, he said, the match will be held in the south end of the county, though a site has yet to be chosen.
A long-time volunteer, Wiersma had dedicated his spare time to helping out at his local church, the Optimist Club and as a member of a men’s choir. However, after a number of years, he was looking for a different way to give back to the community. Brian McGavin, a long-time member of the local plowing match community, directed him to the Huron Plowmen’s Association, saying they were always looking for more help from dedicated volunteers.
After attending a few meetings, Wiersma became more involved. He became a director several years ago when the Fear family hosted on their farm between Belgrave and Brussels. This was after, however, McGavin encouraged Wiersma to try his hand at competitive plowing a handful of times at the matches. He hadn’t done it as a kid, other than for work on the farm, and he said it was a great experience.
Competitive plowing and plowing on the farm, he said, are completely different, so learning how to compete in a plowing match really opened his eyes.
Looking ahead, he hopes this year’s installment in the history of the Huron County Plowing Match will be another great one.
He thinks there’s a great foundation of volunteerism and giving back through not just the association, but with the Brussels Optimists and Brussels Leos, who will be providing meals and donating back their profits to worthy community causes (new playground equipment at North Woods Elementary School near Ethel in the case of the Optimists).
Furthermore, he knows that Pete and Leisa Albers will be excellent hosts. Ahead of the 2020 match, the Albers family approached the association wanting to host a match in the future. That kind of enthusiasm and availability, he said, doesn’t happen every year, but it makes the jobs of volunteers like him a lot easier.