Countdown to IPM '17 - Daltons, Ryans to host IPM LIfestyles Tent
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
One of the biggest attractions for women at each year’s International Plowing Match (IPM) is the Lifestyles Tent and this year’s programming has been placed in two pairs of very capable hands.
Brenda Dalton and Cheryl Ryan, both proud residents of Canada Company Road just south of Walton, will be heading up the Lifestyles program and while details can’t be shared just yet, there is plenty to be excited about.
The program, Dalton said, will focus on a wide spectrum of interests, including landscaping and fashion, as well as some rather famous and engaging guest speakers.
Because the Lifestyles program falls on the 100th IPM and on Canada’s 150th birthday, Dalton says there are some special events planned that will be revealed in the coming months.
The two women at the head of the program have long histories in Huron County and have long been supporters of competitive plowing in the community. They are part of the network of residents around the farm of Jack Ryan and over a dozen other landowners who are all leasing their land to the IPM in hopes of making the match a success.
Several acres belonging to Ken and Brenda Dalton’s farm, for example, will be used for the match this year as well. This is something to which they’re no stranger, as the Daltons played host to the Huron County Plowing Match in 2012.
At the time, the Daltons said it was simply proximity that made their farm a worthy candidate to host the match, but their sons had been involved with plowing nearly 15 years earlier, working with fellow Walton resident Graeme Craig, who was the chair of the 1999 IPM, the last to be held in Huron County, and George Townsend, who has been involved with competitive plowing in Huron County for decades.
The Daltons’ involvement with competitive plowing over the years was casual compared to neighbours like the Townsends, the Doddses and the McGavins, but they were always aware of the activity and what it meant to the culture of Huron County. It’s that culture and its foundation in the rural way of life that makes the IPM so important for the community this year, Brenda says.
While the main goal of the IPM is to provide an opportunity for some of the country’s best competitors to strut their stuff on Ontario’s richest fields, what the IPM does year after year means so much more to rural residents, she said.
The IPM, Dalton said, is all about showcasing rural Ontario to people who may not come from a rural background. Making those connections, she said, is one of the most important things rural Ontario residents can do.
“It’s important to showcase agriculture,” Dalton said. “People are becoming more and more removed from it and this is a real chance to show them a good time.”
Agriculture, however, isn’t new to the Dalton family, whose members have been plying their trade in the world of farming for decades in Huron County.
Ken, not unlike IPM host Jack Ryan, grew up in very close proximity to his current farm on Canada Company Road. Ryan worked his way around his current block over the course of his life and various “moves” from lot to lot.
Ken’s parents, Percy Dalton and Mavis McClure, both have a long history in McKillop Township. Ken’s family began farming on Blyth Road as a beef cattle operation. Ken would soon take the operation over alongside his brother when their parents moved into Seaforth. The two would eventually part ways to work on their own individual farms, leaving Ken at the home farm to continue that legacy of family agriculture.
Brenda’s family also has strong agricultural roots in Huron County. Growing up around Egmondville near Seaforth, Brenda’s parents, Gladys Earl and Lloyd Haney ran a mixed farming operation comprised of dairy and beef cattle, as well as other elements in what would have then been a rural part of Tuckersmith Township.
Brenda’s roots don’t run quite as deep as some other families in Huron County. Her parents were immigrants from Ireland who began farming in what is now Huron East.
She was a farm girl growing up on her family’s operation, she says, chipping in whenever it was necessary, whether it was picking stones, helping with hay and straw or doing the daily chores.
As she grew older, however, she pursued her own choice of career path and became a nurse in Huron County, a profession she would fulfill for the next 30 years of her life at the Clinton Hospital and then at Seaforth Manor.
Ken and Brenda were married in 1977 and they began their life together on the farm Ken grew up on, staying there and working the farm until 2005, when they moved to their current location on Canada Company Road.
After the couple were married, they had four children, Geoffrey, Darrell, Alicia and Scott. Darrell and Scott both farm now through their own operations, while Alicia works for a farm supply dealer. It’s safe to say that the farming bug has remained in the family.
The farmers in the family continue to work together alongside father Ken, as they work to share equipment and resources to ensure all operations are successful.
When the Daltons first hosted a plowing match in 2012, Brenda said that members of the Huron County Plowmen’s Association had surveyed area properties, looking for area farms that would meet the match’s needs. At the time, the Daltons had just recently constructed a new shed on their property and match representatives felt they had a perfect fit.
As for work at the time of the match, Ken said that the association did most of the work and that all that fell to the Daltons was cleaning out their shed so that exhibitors and events would have space indoors during the match.
In the time since the Daltons hosted the 2012 match, Brenda has been elected a councillor of Huron East, representing the McKillop Ward.
She says she wanted to give back to her community and to have a say in decisions being made about the area. She has been a resident of Huron East her whole life, she said, so who better to represent the municipality than a life-long resident?
Through her work as a councillor, Brenda says Huron East has been supportive of the match since day one and will contribute to aid in the match’s success by way of public works manpower and landscaping around the site.
With many residents in the immediate community taking on integral roles in the IPM executive, Brenda says it’s truly that community spirit and hard work that will make this year’s event a success.
“It really does take a village,” she said.
She also said that hosting the match in Walton would be a fantastic tribute to those local families that have worked so hard to put competitive plowing on the map throughout Ontario like the McGavins, the Craigs, the Doddses and the Townsends.
Early on in the process, Brenda was approached to take charge of the Lifestyles program and very soon it was evident that it was a job she wasn’t going to be able to do on her own.
She brought in her neighbour Cheryl Ryan, who was immediately keen to chip in any way she could.
Ryan’s father-in-law is one of the main landowners leasing his land to the match, so Cheryl said it wasn’t long before she came forward wanting to volunteer. Organizers felt the Lifestyles tent alongside her long-time friend Brenda Dalton would be a perfect fit for her skills and interests.
She said that with the Lifestyles Tent targetting the interests of a rural Ontario woman like her, she thought it was a perfect fit.
She also wanted to make sure that she was doing her part for the community, which she says is very much like a family.
As for her and Brenda’s work on the Lifestyles program, there will be presentations and speakers, but it will all be very interactive, she said. Lectures and guest speakers can sometimes be a bit dry, she said, so in the IPM Lifestyles Tent, she and Brenda are planning programming that will be very exciting and interactive over the length of the entire event.
While Cheryl says that she’s focusing on the Lifestyles program, the match as a whole represents a crucial moment in time for rural Ontario.
“I hope we can make a successful event to showcase rural Ontario,” she said. “I’m proud to be part of rural Ontario.”
She also added that while the event will go a long way to show off her part of Ontario, it will also raise millions of dollars for various non-profit organizations throughout the community and beyond. There is so much good being done by the match and those organizing it, she said, that she’s honoured to be part of the team.