Recollections of a hundred-acre farm and the 1936 International Plowing Match

Recollections of a hundred-acre farm and the 1936 International Plowing Match
Garfield MacLennan stands at the site of the 1936 International Plowing Match & Rural Expo's Tented City in May 2015.
CORNWALL Farms were smaller, the International Plowing Match was smaller, but it was a really big deal when Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry hosted the 1936 IPM.

Garfield MacLennan was 11 years old when the first IPM was held in Eastern Ontario.   The tented city and most of the plowing at that historic match were on his grandfather D.L. MacLennan’s farm on South Branch Road north of Cornwall.   

“His name was Donald but everyone knew him as D.L.,” said MacLennan. 

Being only a boy, some memories are more vivid than others. 

“It was the horses,” he said. “I remember looking out and seeing the horses plowing.”

He recalls seeing very few teams hauled in by truck and reckons many would have been driven to the match. The plowing alternated, he says, plowing a grain field one day, then working a sod field the next.

He still has a fondness for the animals. 

“We always had 10 to 14 horses around before we had tractors,” said MacLennan. “And my father always had a driving horse.”   

Mostly Clydesdales for working, he’s not entirely sure why his family chose those heavy horses over the equally popular Percheron .  

“It was just something to argue with the neighbours over,” he suggests in jest. 

Equally animated discussions could be had over dairy cattle. D.L milked Ayrshires.  

MacLennan added: “It was my father who switched over to Holsteins.”

“When you were a kid back then you didn’t get too far from where you lived,” he said.

Having thousands of visitors arrive in the old Cornwall Township was a monumental event. He also recollects how excited the adults were leading up to the 1936 match.  

Because he was in school at the time he spent only two days at the match. One day watching the horse plowing competitions and one day looking around the tented city where vendors and equipment dealers displayed all manner of goods. 

“Water pumps, farm implements, anything of interest to farmers,” said MacLennan.   

He remembers a demonstration area near the tented city where mules were plowing and where he saw tractor plowing for the first time. 

The IPM legacy, the lasting economic impact for the host county, varies from year to year, but for D.L. and the other farmers on the South Branch, it was significant.  

“My grandfather got electricity on his farm because of that plowing match,” said MacLennan.

Electricity wasn’t available outside the city, but in preparation of the 1936 match it was brought out. It wasn’t too long after the match that the neighbouring farmers got power as well.

What now requires more than 1,000 acres took place on hundred-acre strips of land from one corner of the concession road to the next. MacLennan lived just down the road a bit on the 100 acres his father Allan farmed.  

By the time the IPM returned to Stormont County in 1958 farming had changed considerably. The rubber-tired tractor had, for the most part, replaced the horse for field work.  

Shortly before that match, held near Crysler, Garfield, his brother Donald and father Allan, decided to go into the farm machinery business. 

“Most of the International equipment (displayed/demonstrated) back in Crysler ended up at our place after that match,” he says of their decision to establish an International Harvester dealership.

By the time Garfield stopped milking cows in 1985, the MacLennan farm was 400 acres, plus a couple hundred acres of rented land.  

He still owns 180 acres and remains on D.L.’s parcel which overlooks the site of the 1936 tented city and plowing fields. 

It would be more than a decade after that first match in 1936, with the Second World War behind them, that Garfield would attend another IPM.   

No matches were held between 1942 and 1945 due to war time restrictions.  But he’s been to just about every one since. 

Now in his 91st year, he fully intends to be at the 2015 Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry International Plowing Match and Rural Expo near Finch, from September 22-26.


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– This article was submitted by the IPM to highlight the cultural significance of the upcoming event.

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