Plowing Bee showcases old-time implementsROUND LAKE — With the wind whipping against their faces, several long-time farmers with old-time implements celebrated a good old-fashioned plowing bee Wednesday afternoon west of Round Lake.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
ROUND LAKE — With the wind whipping against their faces, several long-time farmers with old-time implements celebrated a good old-fashioned plowing bee Wednesday afternoon west of Round Lake.
“This used to be work and now it’s fun,” said Dave Gonnerman of Spirit Lake, Iowa.
With an 830 John Deere tractor and a four-bottom plow, the member of Northwest Iowa 2-Cylinder Club said joining in the plowing bee brought back a lot of old memories from when he was a kid.
Similar memories were sparked by retired farmers watching through their windshields while parked all along the gravel road.
“I don’t see any Olivers around here though,” said Arnie Meyer of Worthington, who was among those who came to watch.
While the Olivers were absent, there were a handful of John Deeres and a few Farmalls — all pulling mold-board plows.
The oldest combination was a 1941 D John Deere with a two-bottom plow. It was hauled in by Kenny Gonnerman of Spencer, Iowa. Gonnerman, also a member of the 2-Cylinder Club, could plow just a 32-inch span of soil with those two, 16-inch blades.
While the 2-bottom plow was certainly an improvement over the horse-drawn plow, it took forever to actually finish a field back in its heyday.
Gonnerman is old enough to remember what it was like to use a 2-bottom plow, and certainly wouldn’t go back to such antiquated machinery — except for when the guys get together for a plowing bee.
On Wednesday, Kenny Gonnerman forgot to bring along a cushion for the seat.
“I probably have a John Deere imprint in my cheeks,” he said with a laugh.
The Northwest Iowa 2-Cylinder Club, along with southwest Minnesota’s version — the Prairie Reapers — try to join efforts in a plowing bee at least once per year, but it’s getting to be more of a challenge to do that, said organizer Fred DeJong, of Round Lake. Moldboard plows are a thing of the past as farmers practice more conservation tillage.
Yet, with a 12-inch rain west of Round Lake earlier this summer creating large areas of drowned-out soybean fields, DeJong received approval to host a plowing bee on two plots of land along Nobles County 4. On the north side, farmer David Vander Kooi lost 61 acres of soybeans in a 152-acre field; and on the south side of the road, Brad Wendland lost 59 acres of his soybean crop.
“Now, we’re making the best of a bad situation,” DeJong said of the plowing bee.
Eight farmers came for the afternoon to till up the soil and expose the rich, black dirt. DeJong speculates more farmers may have to go back to plowing some day. There is a disease now in corn that can overwinter in the stalks. Chopping them and plowing them under would be the way to get rid of it.
However, plowing up the soil also leads to more erosion — exactly what farmers are hoping to avoid by practicing no-till.
“The soil conservation people don’t want you to get the ground this black,” Dave Gonnerman said.
Vander Kooi, who pulled a four-bottom, 18-inch White plow behind his 4020 John Deere diesel, welcomed the plowing bee as a way to have a little fun before harvest gets into full swing.
“I grew up as a kid plowing. Then you hated it, and now it’s fun,” he said.
A couple of years ago, Vander Kooi allowed DeJong to plow up some areas of the same field because he was having problems with cut worms. The areas that were plowed didn’t have cut worm problems the next year, while the unplowed areas saw a resurgence in the pests.
Still, Vander Kooi said he isn’t about to start plowing all of his fields again. Hosting a plowing bee from time to time, though, is just fine.
Getting together with fellow farmers, sharing memories about tractors and those old, moldboard plows and taking a break for a little lunch and conversation — that’s what a plowing bee is all about, and that’s what makes it fun.
“I enjoy plowing, but I enjoy meeting all the people here,” said Arnie Ihnen of Sioux Valley.