Sign up for the plowing contest in Ashley, N.D. on June 21

Farm Forum

In conjunction with the Ashley Quasi-Centennial, The McIntosh County Heritage Society is planning an old-fashioned plowing contest for Friday, June 21, 2013 at 10:30 a.m.

The event will use rules based on the Dakota Plowing Contest which was held in Ashley each year from 1958 to 1963 for the North Dakota state plowing championship. The two-day plowing contests were very specific with rules and eligibility. Points were awarded based on seven areas of importance: opening furrow, furrow straightness, land ends, closing furrow, furrow depth and width, conformation and surface quality, and trash mulch. Penalties were given for overtime plowing. The contests also required official referees, several judges, starters, timers, and scorers. In order to participate, contestants had to be bona-fide farmers or farm women who received at least 50% of their income from farming. The winner of the contest was eligible to enter the National Plowing Contest.

The First Dakota Plowing Contest in 1958 drew as many as 25 participants from the Ashley area, as well as Fredonia, Streeter, Venturia, Lehr, Wishek, and Greenway, SD. The big event was well attended by a crowd of 3,000 and even North Dakota’s Governor, John Davis, made an appearance. There was also a coronation for Queen of the Furrow. Reporters were on site from the Bismarck Tribune and the Aberdeen American News to cover the story, along with television and radio broadcasts. Ray Zimmerman from Lehr took top honors in 1958 and also won for another four consecutive years before finally being unseated in 1963 by Vernon Nesheim of Pekin, ND. In 1961 lone female participant Eldora Wahl of Ashley earned 5th place and celebrity status after receiving more points than several men on the first day of the contest. Her story traveled all the way to the Minneapolis Tribune.

Plowing is part of Ashley’s historic past. In the early days of McIntosh County farming, it was the only way to prepare soil for seeding. Technology was limited and modern-day chemical spraying and fertilizing was as yet unknown. The act of plowing would bury weed seeds deeply in the ground thus preventing their growth. It also removed crop residue as the drills of the time were unable to efficiently plant directly into stubble. Plowing was the best weed prevention and residue management of its day.

Farming has since come a long way, with conservation programs and no till farming practices almost eliminating this skill of the past. Today’s auto-steer tractors require little driving technique. But since the time sod was first turned over in our county, it was the man or woman behind the wheel who determined the straightness of a furrow. Farmers took pride in driving straight, and this contest will resurrect that pride of skill.

The plowing event held during Ashley’s 125th celebration will be the first in 50 years, but it will only be held if there is enough interest. Cash prizes will be awarded for 3rd place-$100, 2nd place-$200, and 1st place-$300. The contest will be open to 4 bottom or smaller plows, 1963 and older tractors or horse drawn. Entrants with a 4-bottom, 14 inch plow will be allowed 30 minutes to plow half an acre.

Interested persons wishing to participate should contact Tony Schneider at 701-374-7681 or Delbert Eszlinger at 701-288-3895 by March 1st. If there are enough participants, rules will be available by April 15th from Crystal Schaunaman of the McIntosh County Extension Office in Ashley, 701-288-3465.