Matthew Sterling, 16, returned home from the 2019 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo with several awards, a scholarship and an invitation to compete at the 2020 Canadian Plowing Championships.
“The fact that I’m going to the Canadians … I can’t believe it right now. It’s going to take a little bit for that to sink in,” Matthew said following the Celebration of Excellence banquet, during which most plowing award recipients are announced.
“I’ve learned a lot this week, so I was really able to step up my plowing during the week and hopefully I can step it up some more for the Canadians next year.”
IPM 2019 was held Sept. 17-21 in Verner, West Nipissing. This annual event, which moves around the province, is hosted by the Ontario Plowmen’s Association (OPA) and a local committee in each community.
Competing in Class 2 Group 2 – limited to competitors between 16 and 19 years of age, using a tractor and a two-furrow plow – Matthew’s score of 559 points was second-best, making him the reserve champion. This year’s champion is Hailey Gruber of Richmond, Minnesota with 581 points.
Judges award points based on straightness, cut and uniformity, burying of grass and stubble, distinctness of the furrow, uniformity, neatness and more.
As reserve champion, Matthew earned an invitation to compete in the 2020 Canadian Plowing Championships, to be held in Rivers, Manitoba. IPM competitors who advance to the Canadians are presented with a coat/hat known as the Graeme, Helen and Michael Craig Special.
The performance also earned him the 2019 Eliot Moses Memorial Special. Matthew received a piece of Indigenous pottery which is presented to the contestant with the greatest number of points in Class 2, 3, 4 – Group 1 and 2 who were born after 1995. Contestant must compete each day that plowing
competition is held during the Match. This award, donated by the Moses Family, is in memory of Eliot Moses, from Oshweken, who was an OPA President in 1933 and was a director for 33 years until 1960.
Matthew’s final honour presented during the Celebration of Excellence is the 2019 Barb McAllister Memorial Scholarship. Named in recognition of a dedicated former OPA employee, this $2,500 scholarship can be put toward tuition at university, college, an apprenticeship program or another institution approved by the OPA Board of Directors.
After finishing high school, Matthew hopes to enroll in the robotics program at Conestoga College. He’s currently in Grade 12 at Ursuline College (The Pines) Catholic Secondary School in Chatham.
Matthew’s accolades collection wasn’t over yet. He also took part in the Junior Match (Class 7) on the Saturday of the IPM and came away with the Winston Roberts Special, which recognizes the Junior competitor with the greatest overall score. Matthew’s was 141 points, enough to win his group and the class as a whole.
This was Matthew’s second year competing at the IPM. Last time around, it was held in his home community of Pain Court in Chatham-Kent.
“We’re two farms down from the IPM last year,” he said.
Matthew came out on top of Class 2 Group 2, as well as Class 7 Group 2. That was his first time competing at the IPM. He has been plowing for about six years.