Ploughing, the first and most important work of the year when properly cultivating crops, has guaranteed the fertility of the uppermost layer of soil for millennia. Over the past sixty years, ploughing has developed beyond its status as a tool for cultivation into competitions, which are designed to test contestants’ skills in handling the plough. Competitive ploughing is thus a competition to achieve the best result from ploughing – the king of agricultural disciplines – which primarily involves ploughing straight furrows and correctly turning the soil.
Alongside creating quantifiable and comparable evaluation criteria, the ploughing competitions have garnered even broader significance: they are professional competitions, nurture agricultural customs, and create an image and publicity all in one.
After the disaster of the Second World War, many countries started to become aware that producing sufficient food would play a considerable role in ensuring peace. Under the motto “pax arva colat” – “The land orders peace”, in 1953 the World Ploughing Organisation (WPO) founded a worldwide peace movement with the aim of establishing better agricultural methods and strengthening the international farming community.
Yet competitive ploughing is by no means a modern phenomenon. Even in the 8th century, with the advances of the Saxons on the British Isles, the newcomers were said to have demonstrated their superiority in agriculture by putting on large-scale ploughing shows with ox-drawn carts. In later times, kings and emperors often took up the plough themselves in order to persuade their subjects of the importance of good agricultural methods.
As well as encouraging professional competition, the performances of farmers are also supposed to increase the value of agriculture and farming amongst the wider population and to foster an understanding for the economic and ecological conditions of food production.
On an interpersonal level, the competitions also offer the opportunity for farmers to exchange local, national, and international expertise amongst themselves and thus to increase the community spirit of a profession that forms the basis of life itself.