By Maranda Klaver
And just like that, in the blink of an eye, my reign is almost over. It feels like I’ve been a Queen of the Furrow forever, like it has become part of my identity. When I was crowned as Huron County Queen back in 2019, I had no idea what was coming my way and ended up getting way more Queen time than I ever could’ve imagined.
But I truly wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It was a normal start to the local reign with fairs and plowing matches and parades; then covid hit. I had to learn how to go to events virtually and wearing a mask in public became the new normal. My one-year reign was turned into a three-year reign- which made me the longest reigning queen in Huron County history! Who knew that was in the cards when I signed up and won the title. I loved every minute of being Huron County’s Queen of the Furrow. It entailed a great group of plowing and agricultural enthusiasts, the absolute best supporters, and an opportunity to meet new people and attend fun events across the county. The real cherry on top was finally getting the green light to head to the International Plowing Match and Rural Expo in Grenville County in September 2022. I was just happy to be there after a whirlwind of a reign with all the drama from Covid.
The week of the IPM flew by. I went there with two goals, to make some new friends and connections, and do well in plowing. All the other queens were all so great to be around and it truly was so special to be around like-minded individuals finally after several long drawn-out years of Covid. The night of the banquet, I had done everything I could. All the cards were laid out and it was out of my hands now and I could just sit back and see what happens. And then my name was called as the new Ontario Queen of the Furrow! My next adventure was about to begin within moments of that crown being placed on my head. There was an unreal feeling going through my body and mind when I was on stage. I didn’t believe it at first but when I looked at previous Ontario Queen Anna, it hit me; I was now the new Ontario Queen. Something so prestigious that I had worked toward over the past three years had just happened. I had looked up to all the previous Ontario Queens and now the queen that people would look up to was me!
My first official day on the new job was the Saturday of the IPM. I was escorted around by previous Queen Anna and she introduced me to everyone while showing me the ropes. Although I had been a queen for three years prior, it felt like a whole new world to me maybe because of the adrenaline still pumping through me or maybe because of all the excitement. Either way I knew I was ready for it.
After the IPM was over, I embarked on my new journey as Ontario Queen of the Furrow on my own. In Huron we have a Princess of the Furrow as well, so it was always nice to have a little buddy with me at events, so this was a bit of a change for me. However, at each event I usually always ran into a fellow queen, otherwise it was an opportunity for me to get to know my fellow plowers. I was able to attend the Haldimand Oneida Plowing Match alongside Oneida Queen Jacquelyn where I met some members of the Ontario Plowmen’s board of directors. Also, I headed to Dufferin County and got very familiar with the new crew I would be hanging around for the next year. I learned that not only does USA have a Bowling Green, but so does Ontario; and in the heart of Dufferin County, where IPM 2023 will be held. In the 104-year history of the IPM, this is the first year it will be held in Dufferin County! That is something that is so exciting and historic that I am very proud to help promote over the course of my reign.
November brought on a variety of events across the province like the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, 4-H and school presentations, Christmas parades and toy shows, and farmer appreciation dinners.
In December, I attended an IPM workshop for all the volunteers of Dufferin County, Huron Plowmen held a celebration party for my provincial win, and multiple annual general meetings (AGM) of plowmen’s associations across the province. It was a busy end of the year but very memorable for sure.
To ring in the new year, I had the honour of being a guest speaker at several AGMs for local fairs and beef producer clubs. It’s a good thing I enjoy writing speeches, as this was just the beginning of it.
In February, I had one of the most memorable experiences from my reign. I was asked to be a guest panelist at the University of Guelph, women in ag club, for their inspiring women in ag networking night. The ‘ask’ itself was enough of an honour, but being able to attend and have so many incredible people look up to me and not only care, but value the information I had to share was something I’ll never forget. This took being a role model to a whole new level.
March was farm show month. I attended London and Drayton farm shows, got all the free pens, and did some networking. I also attended an all-chairs meeting for the upcoming IPM and heard about the updates and progress that has been made so far. All the meetings for the IPM always get me so excited for what’s to come. Another big highlight was being able to attend the Kawartha Lakes’ spotlight on agriculture gala alongside Region of Durham Queen Meghan. It was a great night of fun, food, and agriculture, what more could you want?
In April, one of the big events prior to the IPM is the Ontario Plowmen’s Association Annual Convention and this year it was held in Coburg. Not only to top it off with being a great meeting with fellow plow members from across the province but the Golden Plough from the first World Ploughing Match was right across the road from the hotel! So many big things this weekend, and of course it got everyone excited and talking about the upcoming IPM.
No May showers kept me down! I was excited to be a judge for the Milverton fair baby and sweetheart of the fair competitions. So many fantastic candidates, but unfortunately only one winner. Everyone willing to get on the stage was a winner in my eyes. After the judging concluded, I headed to Tiverton for fellow plowmen Tom Evans from Bruce County’s fundraiser dinner. He has qualified to represent Canada at the World Plowing championships in Latvia this October. The hall was full! Tom has so much support behind him and we wish him all the very best luck later this year; we know you will do great and represent Canada very well. The closer we get to September, the more events keep happening in Dufferin County. Peel-Dufferin Queen Mel and I also attended the Grand Valley duck race where we advertised the IPM and helped sell souvenirs!
June was presentation month. Alex Giger and I presented to the Orangeville Probus group about the IPM and volunteering at it, I was asked to be a guest speaker at Brussels Optimist 50th anniversary dinner, and had the pleasure of being part of Farm and Food Care Ontario’s Breakfast on the Farm. This year it just so happened to be in Huron County, a farm crawl style and one of the stops was at my previous Princess of the Furrows family dairy farm. I helped serve ice cream and promote the Queen of the Furrow program and finally met up with minister Lisa Thompson who also heils from Huron-Bruce.
Recently, Queen Mel and I gave a presentation to the Caledon East and District historic society about the history of the IPM, Queen of the Furrow Program and the amalgamation of the Peel and Dufferin Plowmen’s Associations. Always neat to learn about a fellow association.
In the coming months, I am preparing for what I’m going to say will be the busiest time in my life. The peak of my reign will be here with plowing matches all over the province and people I haven’t met yet just waiting to connect. I’m definitely very excited for this part of my reign as it’s what we’ve all been waiting for. Where all the plowers do their best to try to get enough points to qualify for the IPM and get to know each other before spending a week together in Dufferin County. I will also hopefully be able to meet new queens across the province and see them embark on their new journey as queen and help prepare the current ones for the upcoming IPM. I’m mostly looking forward to the IPM and being able to spend a week with the queens and connect with the few I haven’t met. I encourage everyone to come out Sept. 19-23 and witness history in Dufferin County, there is something for everyone.
To all the volunteers and chairs of Dufferin County- thank you. You have all been fantastic to work with and welcomed me with open arms. I am very honoured to have helped promote such a great county that you have all made feel like home over the past year. This experience has been nothing short of incredible and something I will truly cherish forever, as I know it has been the opportunity of a lifetime. I wish all the queens the best of luck at the IPM this year and I can’t wait to be by your side though it all. To the new Ontario Queen, take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way and don’t forget to breathe. You are in for the opportunity of a lifetime and I can’t wait to watch you succeed and break the glass ceiling.