Gene Gruber has to stop and think when asked how many U.S. plowing championships have been won by members of his family, a three-generation dynasty. "Seventeen. It’s been 17," he says after a few moments.
"That shows what a big part of our lives the plowing competition has been," he said.
Gruber, of Richmond, Minn., the current U.S. Plowing Champion, will compete in the World Ploughing Contest Aug. 30-31 on the Arnesen family farmland two miles south of Baudette.
It will be the first time that the world contest has been in the United States since 1988. Germany hosted the event last year.
Both ploughing and plowing are correct spellings and mean the same thing. Plowing is the standard American English spelling; people involved in the international competition use ploughing.
The USA Plowing Contest will follow on Sept. 1.
The international and USA contests require participants to "prove their mastery, expertise and attention to detail," according to promotional materials.
"You really need to pay close attention to what you’re doing. You have to have patience. Details are very important" when competing in the ploughing contest, Gene Gruber said.
The Gruber plowing dynasty, which has produced the 17 U.S. championships, began with Werner Gruber, Gene’s father, who died in May, continued with Gene and his two brothers and now, in the third generation, with Hailey, Gene’s daughter.
Hailey won the 2017 U.S. Plowing Championship, enabling her to compete in the 2018 World Ploughing Championship when she was just 16. She was the youngest contestant and one of only two females to compete.
"I just really enjoy plowing, the competition, spending time with the other people. There are my state friends (people involved in the competition at the Minnesota level), my national friends and my international friends," she said.
"And I really like spending time with my dad," said Hailey, who turns 17 just before this year’s world championship.
Gene welded a "buddy seat" for her on his tractor when she was 2 years old. She received her own tractor when she was 7 or 8.
Gene Gruber, who first competed in the World Ploughing Championship in 1987 in Austria, is a stainless steel welder. He owns some land and uses it for the repeated plowing practice that has made him one of the best competitive plowers in the world.
As everyone familiar with U.S. agriculture knows, changing farming practices have made plowing much less common than it once was. Gruber, asked about that, said attracting young people to plowing competition has become more difficult.
A handful of countries, particularly Northern Ireland, Scotland, France, Austria and England, tend to do especially well in the world championship, Gruber said.
Plows for the world event are built in Norway by one of the contest sponsors and donated to the contestants, who are responsible for getting their own tractor to the contest.
Want to attend?
In addition to watching the competition, local tours, guided fishing, displays and exhibits, agricultural equipment demonstrations and more will be offered. The Baudette and surrounding Lake of the Woods area is "a premier vacation destination with world class fishing on Lake of the Woods, abundance of wildlife and sheer natural beauty," according to Lake of the Woods promotional material.
The area also has a strong ag tradition, with a variety of crops grown, according to event organizers.
The World Ploughing Organization is using the mantra, "Pax Arva Colat", which stands for "Let peace cultivate the land," to describe this year’s event.
Gene and Hailey Gruber encourage the public to attend the contest.
"With people from so many countries, it’s a chance to learn more about the world and expand your perspective," Hailey said.
More information: https://lakeofthewoodsmn.com/world-ploughing-2019/.