Generational change comes to Seguin hands on the plow

Little Current’s Denis Seguin didn’t let a 35-year hiatus stall him when he got behind the antique tractor to compete in a ploughing match to qualify for the international competition in Walton.

LITTLE CURRENT—Ploughing is embedded in Denis Seguin’s DNA, just about literally, as the one-time dairy farmer turned EMS worker’s father has been competing at the regional, national and international level in the antique category for decades. Now the son is taking over the father, scoring enough points at a regional ploughing competition to advance to the International Ploughing match this week in Walton, Ontario.

“I was a dairy farmer before I became a paramedic,” said Mr. Seguin. “I haven’t touched a plough for about 35 years, so I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out.” It worked out pretty good considering the interval. So is it like driving a bicycle? “No, no, there is a lot more to it than that,” he laughed.

Mr. Seguin placed fifth in a field of seven on his first outing in 35 years, scoring 118 points. “You need 115 points to advance,” he said. “My father was competing in the same event, he scored 126 points and came in third.” So the elder Mr. Seguin still has the stuff, since he outscored his progeny. “Well he had to, didn’t he?” laughed Mr. Seguin the younger.

The elder Mr. Seguin asked his son to take over the reins, or steering wheel as it were, when it comes to the International Ploughing match. Mr. Seguin the younger admits that there is a little bit of pressure. After all, the family honour at the plough is at stake.

Little Current’s Denis Seguin didn’t let a 35-year hiatus stall him when he got behind the antique tractor to compete in a ploughing match to qualify for the international competition in Walton.

“I was a little nervous,” he said. “I told my dad and he said that he was the same way at first, “but he said ‘now I just turn over some dirt’.”

The International Ploughing match is a pretty big deal in farm country. Preparation for the event begins the year before (or even two) as the event basically takes place in a farmer’s fields.

“They have to bring in hydro and prepare the ground for the tent city and displays,” explained Mr. Seguin. “It is really something to see. There are all kinds of old tractors and old working machinery. They have places set up for disabled people closer to the competition and there are helicopters flying overhead. The helicopters are the best way to take it all in. You can see the tent city, the ploughing in the fields and the sea of people and the exhibits.”

The enormous crowds that come to the International Plowing Match and Rural Expo are an attractive market for farming equipment and other agricultural supplies, so the manufacturers and dealers are out in force for the event. The antique division may be a popular draw with its chugging and puffing behemoths of yesteryear, but the state-of-the-art machinery is sure to catch a farmer’s eye.

Father and son pose beside the sign of the times for the 83rd
Annual St. Joseph Island Plowing Match.

The International Ploughing Match is about much more than just ploughing fields and reminiscing, however, it is basically the World Exposition of all things agricultural and rural, showcasing culture as well as equipment and produce.

But for the Seguin family, ploughing is pretty much centre stage. Despite that, Mr. Seguin isn’t practicing for the competition as such. “Competing at the ploughing matches is my practice,” he said.

Asked if Mr. Seguin the elder will be coaching from the sidelines Mr. Seguin the younger replied an emphatic “No. I would lose points if he was anywhere near me while I am ploughing. No coaching allowed. Even visitors, although welcome to come watch, have to keep their distance while I am competing or I lose points.”

Judging is serious business, and the judge for the antique division is a very experienced hand who has adjudicated competitions across North America and Europe. The International Ploughing Match and Rural Expo is “the show” for farming. “It’s kind of like my first game in the NHL,” admits Mr. Seguin. “I am going to ‘the show,’ yeah!”

Mr. Seguin the elder is hoping that his son Denis will be representing the family at the Verner International Ploughing match in 2019. The 2017 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo will take place September 19 to 23 in Walton, but work is already underway for the 2019 International Ploughing match in Verner. Members of the Ontario Plowmen’s Association have been meeting with local officials to lay the ground work already.