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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

12-year-old Austin McLeod earns high point honour at his first International Plowing Match

by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative

When 12-year-old Austin McLeod competed in - and won - his division at the Essex County Plowing Match in early August, which was held at Trimble Farms in South Woodslee, he had no idea he was setting course for further triumph in his first real season of competition.

Recently, the young competitor traveled to Dufferin County to test his skills at the revered International Plowing Match, representing a higher-level of competition. He was thrilled to not only have the experience – where he was able to meet many new friends – but to win his age division by earning the most points across several days of competition.

In order to compete at the International Plowing Match, McLeod had to gain enough points at the local level. He earned those points by competing at the plowing matches in Essex County, Middlesex County, Elgin County, and Lambton County. In addition, he used those matches to gain more experience in honing his in-field talents.

McLeod noted that last year he competed at the Essex County Plowing Match for the first time, however, that was his only experience before giving competing a full go this year. He remembers talking to his dad and coach, Adam McLeod, last year, who suggested holding off on going to the International Plowing Match until he got just a little bit more experience.

It was a decision he was pleased with, as the outcome at this year’s International Plowing Match was favourable for the young farmer. He ended up with a first place overall finish in his age category, in addition to earning an award in the form of a pocket watch for being the high point champion for the first time competitor in his age category.

McLeod noted that competition at the International Plowing Match was tight, and he was the youngest one in his category.

At 12-years-old, he was competing against others as old as 16. What was especially neat about competing this year, McLeod noted, was that he was given advice from a fellow competitor at the Middlesex competition on how to plow on hills, since the terrain in Essex County is flat.

Heading into the International Plowing Match, McLeod said he was on a pretty good streak of earning 130 points while competing at those local shows. He noted that is a really good score out of a possible 200 maximum points. He wasn’t sure how he was going to perform at the International Plowing Match, wondering at the time if his nerves would interfere with his ability to compete at his best.

The International Plowing Match took place over two-days, upon which McLeod plowed four plots. Two plots were of wheat stubble and two were of clover. He noted that he placed first in two of the plot competitions and fourth in the other two, leading to an overall High Point finish of 500 points in Class 2 Group 1. Competition was fierce, he noted, as the second place competitor came in with 499 points.

“I was told it was going to be close, and it was,” McLeod said. When he learned he earned the total high point average award given to a first time competitor in his age category, McLeod said he was super excited, especially since he and his fellow competitors were in such a tight race.

Looking ahead, McLeod said he will probably compete again next year, though his mom, Heidi, said he will have to share the tractor with his younger sister, who is showing an interest in getting involved as well.


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