Convention, Annual Meeting Postponed

Due to the current situation with COVID-19, the Ontario Plowmen’s Association Board of Directors has decided to POSTPONE the Convention and Annual Meeting scheduled for March 26 to 29 at the Arden Park Hotel in Stratford. We will continue to monitor this health situation to determine when the Convention and Annual Meeting can be re-scheduled.

In the meantime, please call the hotel directly to cancel your accommodations - 519-275-2936 or 1-877-788-8818.

UPDATE: Our Directors are scheduled to meet on Sunday, April 5th and Monday, April 6th. At that time, they will determine how to handle registration payments/refunds, elections, re-scheduling the Annual Meeting, etc.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call the OPA Office or speak with any OPA Director:

Sheila Marshall, President                      519-276-0174

Don Priest, 1st Vice-President                705-721-7080

Robert MacLean, 2nd Vice-President    (currently on vacation out of country)

David Murray, Past President                 905-577-7629

Douglas Sturgess                                   613-371-8044

Melvin Switzer                                        519-428-7610

Donna Telfer                                           519-442-7445

Brian Lunn                                              519-630-1328

Margaret Vincent                                    519-531-0803

OPA Office                                             519-767-2928 or 1-800-661-7569

Thank you for your understanding. We believe this decision, while a difficult one to make, is in the best interests of our members.

Yours truly,


A look back at IPM 2019

First and foremost, thank you to everyone involved in making the 2019 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo (IPM) happen – from volunteers and vendors to competitors, sponsors and visitors. It was a great success and that wouldn’t have been possible without you.

Aerial photo of IPM 2019 Tented City

This awesome event was also aided by Mother Nature, who provided five straight days of sunshine and warm temperatures to help bring out large crowds.

“Our primary strategic objective when we set out to create this was to host the greatest Plowing Match in the history of mankind. I’m proud to say … I think we’ve done it,” said IPM 2019 Chair Neil Fox, expressing gratitude for the “wonderful, magical volunteers” who were involved with the five-day event. “They put in so many hours, so much blood, sweat and tears (into this).”

More than two years of planning went into hosting IPM 2019, with more than 1,200 volunteers helping bring it all together.

Among the many event highlights are a visit from Amber Marshall, star of CBC’s Heartland; a performance from Justin Tyler, runner-up in the 2019 Boots and Hearts Emerging Artist Showcase; about 150 BMO Plowing Competition participants; the Northeastern Ontario Pavilion; and the crowing of Wellington County’s Heidi Frey as the 2019/2020 Ontario Queen of the Furrow.

The IPM also featured dozens of entertainers – largely local talent – and demonstrations, such as fashion shows, spread out among three stages. Another major attraction was the full 450 vendor/exhibitor spaces offering a variety of large and small equipment, rural living items, an array of food and much more.

“What a wonderful week we’ve had here,” commented Sheila Marshall, President of the Ontario Plowmen’s Association, the parent hosts of the IPM. “They say if you build it, people will come. And as we have found this week, people have come … from all across the province of Ontario.”

As is tradition, IPM 2019 concluded with the passing of the flags to representatives of IPM 2020, to be held in Lindsay, Kawartha Lakes from Oct. 14 to 17, 2020.

“What an event you put on here in Verner. You should give yourselves a round of applause,” said Kawartha Lakes Mayor Andy Letham. “Thanks for having us up here. Thanks for the incredible job you did and I hope to see you all down in Lindsay in the City of Kawartha Lakes next year.”

Our photos of IPM 2019

Wellington County woman named Ontario Queen of the Furrow

Drayton’s Heidi Frey is the next Ontario Queen of the Furrow. She was selected to wear the crown during the 2019 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo in Verner, West Nipissing.Ontario Queen of the Furrow Heidi Frey

“I can’t believe this is real. I’m so honoured to be chosen out of this amazing group of girls that I’ve gotten to spend the last couple of days with,” she said after her coronation on Friday, Sept. 20.

“I look forward to working with the Kawartha Lakes committee for 2020.”

As Ontario Queen of the Furrow, one of Heidi’s responsibilities is to promote IPM 2020, which is set for Oct. 14 to 17 in Lindsay, Kawartha Lakes.

Eighteen Ontario Queen of the Furrow contestants, each selected to represent their region of the province, were accompanied by three judges during two days of competition at IPM 2019. They were assigned points based on appearance and deportment, plowing abilities, an interview and a speech on an agriculture-related topic delivered on the Main Stage in front of a large crowd of IPM visitors.

The top five contestants were attributed additional points based on an impromptu speech delivered during the Celebration of Excellence banquet at West Nipissing Community & Recreation Centre – Marcel Noel Hall (219 O’Hara Street, Sturgeon Falls).

The other five finalists were:

Anna Lennox of Grey-Normanby (runner-up)

Zoe Dauphinais of West Nipissing (second runner-up)

Samantha Reid of Hastings

Grace Mullen of Essex

Heidi, 20, is a second-year student at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus. She’s set to graduate with an Associate Diploma in Agriculture at the end of the current school year.

“I’m hoping afterward to get a job based in agronomy and eventually obtain my CCA (Certified Crop Advisor), which basically means I make recommendations to farmers,” she explained.

Heidi’s family was in the dairy business but sold their quota several years ago and now runs an ag retail business.

“That’s where I got my love of cropping from,” she said with a smile.

In her new role, Heidi will act as an ambassador for Ontario agriculture, travelling the province and attending events to promote the IPM and the Ontario Plowmen’s Association. She will continue her reign until the 2020 IPM, at which time a new Ontario Queen of the Furrow will be crowned.

“Being Ontario Queen of the Furrow has honestly been one of the best years of my life,” said Oxford County’s Derika Nauta, the 2018/2019 Ontario Queen of the Furrow. “I will cherish these memories forever.”

Sterling’s Samantha Reid was chosen by her fellow 2019-20 Ontario Queen of the Furrow contestants to receive the title of Miss Friendship.

“We’re all so proud to support wholeheartedly the OPA, the IPM and the Ontario Queen of the Furrow competition,” said Lisa Hunter, manager of marketing and communications for the Ontario Mutual Insurance Association, which sponsors the program. “This is a program that offers so much to our future leaders in agriculture. It’s a great pleasure to say we play a small part in that.”

The IPM is organized by the Ontario Plowmen’s Association (OPA), in conjunction with a local committee. It is held in a different community every year, offering five days of competitions, live entertainment, hundreds of vendors and exhibitors, children’s activities, antique and historical displays, and much more. The Ontario Queen of the Furrow competition has been a part of the IPM since 1960.

Explained: Ontario Queen of the Furrow

Promoting agriculture and the rural lifestyle

A woman cuts through the crowd, her grin transforming into a wide smile as she reaches royalty.

“I always wanted to meet a queen,” she says, extending her hand toward Derika Nauta, the 2018/2019 Ontario Queen of the Furrow. “Do you plow?”

Derika smiles back, shaking the woman’s hand, “Yes, of course.”

London Farm Show Derika and Sheila

2018/2019 Ontario Queen of the Furrow Derika Nauta

and OPA President Sheila Marshall at the London Farm Show.

This is a scenario that plays out regularly for Derika, who tours the province promoting agriculture and the upcoming 2019 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo (IPM) in Verner, West Nipissing, as well as the event’s parent host, the Ontario Plowmen’s Association (OPA).

“People always want to meet the Queen,” Derika quips later, letting out a laugh.

Derika wears her Ontario Queen of the Furrow sash and tiara with pride, attending Association Plowing Matches, farm shows, parades, agricultural events and more. She never turns down an opportunity to discuss the importance of agriculture and the rural lifestyle.

Having grown up on a dairy farm near Tavistock in Oxford County, they’re topics this 22-year-old knows well.

“It’s nice to get out of your comfort zone and meet all these new people,” says Derika, commenting on some of the major benefits of being Ontario Queen of the Furrow – building people skills and networking abilities.

“It’s more than a pageant.”

Indeed! While appearance is a part of the judging criteria, it’s far from a major factor.

Contestants – each of whom is selected by their local plowing association to represent their region at the IPM – spend two days being assessed by a panel of judges. Points are assigned based on plowing ability, an interview with the panel, and a speech on an agricultural topic delivered on the Main Stage in front of IPM visitors, as well as appearance and deportment.

The top five contestants are then asked to give an impromptu speech during the annual Celebration of Excellence awards ceremony, with the winner announced that evening.

Derika had never plowed when she first agreed to take part in the Oxford County Branch Queen of the Furrow competition. A neighbour was supposed to compete but had to drop out and asked Derika if she’d take the spot.

Derika was only 15 years old at the time but she quickly agreed. Following an introduction to plowing, a little coaching and speech-writing, she was selected as Oxford ag royalty.

The next year, off she went to Mitchell, where IPM 2013 was held, to compete with the other branch Queens.

She wasn’t presented the Ontario crown that time around, but the “amazing” experience convinced her to give it another try in 2017. Again, she was chosen by her local branch and took part in the Queens competition, this time at IPM 2018 in Chatham-Kent.

“Coming at it the second time, I was a little more confident in what I was doing. I was a little more confident with advocating for agriculture. I was more passionate about agriculture,” Derika says. “I think that was the biggest difference (from 2013).”

Another major difference was her age. In order to be crowned Ontario Queen of the Furrow, you must be between 18 and 25 years old. It’s not uncommon for the same woman to represent her branch association more than once; the rules allow them to do it in up to three times.

“It still doesn’t feel real. I don’t think it’ll feel real until the 2019 IPM,” Derika said of being bestowed the provincial crown. “It’s been such an amazing opportunity for me to leave Oxford County and see what else is out there, meet politicians and inspire people who are in agriculture, and see how much bigger things are.”

The Queen of the Furrow program has been part of the IPM since 1960 and is graciously sponsored by the Ontario Mutual Insurance Association. The Queen crowned one year performs a number of duties during the next year’s IPM and is a representative for that event.

“The idea of the Queens program is to promote agriculture, to promote the Ontario Plowmen’s Association and to promote the IPM. The Queen, by doing all of this, gains a lot of confidence in herself, her ability to speak, how to communicate with people, think on her feet,” explains Sheila Marshall, who represents the OPA on the IPM Queens committee and was herself an Ontario Queen of the Furrow back in 1973/1974.

“For me, it was awesome because my dad was a plowman and he had won the gold medal with horses and I wanted to do something as well, so I went through the Queen program,” she says, noting she also plowed competitively.

“Being Queen really got me out into different parts of the province that I probably never would have seen and I met people I wouldn’t have met.”

The program, she adds, “is a real self-confidence builder”, even for contestants who don’t win the provincial title.

“You are still building confidence in yourself and the ability to do all those things – they do it at the local level. The Ontario Queen, she’s just doing it on a broader scale.”

- by Richard Vivian




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