Ploughing is the probably one of the most familiar of all of the countryside activities. Tilling the soil and preparing the land for a new growing year has been the subject of art and literature as well as the cause for celebration and thanksgiving for as long as anyone can remember. The object of ploughing is to turn the top surface of the soil and bury surface plant growth and rubbish underneath where it will decompose. The depth of ploughing depends on the condition of the soil and whether the crop that will next occupy the land is deep or shallow rooting.
Ploughing is carried out as early as possible in the autumn so that, especially on the heavier soils, the winter frosts will bestow its beneficial effects as long as possible, but it is impossible to work during hard frost and undesirable in prolonged wet weather and so often continues into the spring.
Ploughing is an ancient craft and the ability to plough a straight furrow is highly prized. There has always been strong competition among those who plough to be considered the best in their field and some of the ploughing match societies in Britain are a century old. The W.K.P.M.A itself celebrated its 70th Anniversary in 2016.
Exactness is of the essence and every blade of grass and stubble on the plot must be buried within a specified time limit, furrows must be identical, smooth and free from holes and straightness is paramount. Each aspect of the competition attracts points, and after a set area of ground has been completed, the cant is judged and the Champion for the year is settled.
Ploughing is never as easy at it looks, a good eye and plenty of hands on experience produces dividends when it comes to competition work. Many prospective ploughmen have stood in abject wonder whilst watching a true master at work, then gone home convinced that they now know "how it's done", only to find that somehow, concentrated observation of their mentors skills simply isn't enough and the flawless work studied earlier cannot be duplicated quite so easily!
Agriculture is at its mechanized peak as we advance into the 21st century, but skill is something that cannot be mechanically replicated. Never is this more obvious when one watches a true master ploughman at work.
The W.K.P.M.A considers the art of ploughing to be highly important and a tradition to be actively encouraged through competition if it is to survive. Who knows, maybe one day, the National Ploughing Champion will originate from Kent!
In these days of quality control & trace-ability, it's most important that the start of production is right and it all starts with the plough!