Countdown to IPM '17: Terpstra to bring Princess competition to IPM
BY DENNY SCOTT
The inclusion of the Princess competition at the International Plowing Match (IPM) outside of Walton this year represents the culmination of hard work by Barb Terpstra, the competition chair, and George and Ruth Townsend.
“They started this legacy by starting the Princess competition,” Terpstra said. “They made something that stretched from Huron County to the international stage and I’m just happy to be taking their dream and sending it to the International Plowing Match level.”
The first-ever International Plowing Match Princess competition will be held on the junior competition day, Saturday, Sept. 23, and Terpstra is aiming to have 10 contestants at the match.
The competition is modelled after the Queen of the Furrow contest which sees young women compete to represent their local plowman’s associations throughout the year and vie for the spot of the Ontario Queen of the Furrow at the IPM.
George and Ruth Townsend started the first Princess competition at the Huron County Plowing Match a decade ago.
The competition will consist of an interview with three judges, a one-to-two minute speech on any topic related to agriculture and an impromptu speech based on the contestant’s profile.
“We’re not trying to surprise them, but we want something that isn’t pre-written,” she said. “We want to see how they react.”
She said she is excited to have the competition be a part of the IPM, but also excited to have the new tradition begin in Huron County, where the Princess competition first found success through the Townsends.
“I’m very honoured to be chosen to help bring the event to the IPM,” she said. “It’s a huge privilege and I hope I do it justice and hope it pleases the legacy that George and Ruth and their family have started.”
The competition winner will be crowned Princess, but won’t be expected to be as busy as the IPM Queen of the Furrow winner.
“We’re not expecting them to promote the IPM like a Queen, but to promote the event wherever is local to them,’ she said. “We hope the winner will make it to the Ontario Plowmen Association’s annual meeting, but, unlike Queen winners, Princesses can’t drive themselves throughout the province to all sorts of events, so it would be unrealistic to expect them to be held to the same kind of schedule.”
Due to the timing of the IPM, Huron County’s Princess will be newly crowned by the Huron County Plowmen’s Association at the Huron County Plowing Match in August, however not all associations will have had their competitions by them, or have a Princess competition at all.
“Some locales will be sending last year’s Princess,” she said. “Others may just be appointing members.
“Huron County is really blessed to have the kind of participation in agricultural events it does,” she said. “There are so many youth-centred ideas and plowing in Huron County is so strong because of that junior participation.”
Terpstra pointed to last year’s Huron County Queen of the Furrow competition, saying that four of the competitors were former Princess competitors.
“We have to start them young so when they get at the age that they get to participate in events like this, it’s something they are familiar with and something they want to be involved with,” she said.
All competitors must be 16 years old or under, regardless of whether they competed in the previous year. Each competitor must also be chaperoned by a parent or member of their local association.
The event is sponsored by Cranbrook Farm, owned and operated by Terpstra and her husband Joe, and Townsend Tire. The winner will receive, aside from the experience with interviews, public speaking and friendships inevitably made, a $1,000 bursary towards their post-secondary education.
Terpstra said she has spent nearly a decade around the Princess competition and events like it, pointing to the fact that her three daughters had all competed in it. Twenty-one-year old Chelsea competed as a Princess and was the first runner-up for the Brussels Ambassador competition, 19-year-old Alison competed in the Princess competition and 17-year-old Emily was the Princess several years ago.
“Jacquie Bishop approached me about running it and I agreed,” she said.
Terpstra said there doesn’t seem to be as many opportunities for modern children to get experiences like the Princess competition has to offer.
Traditionally, the competition consists of contestants participating an interview and then speaking in front of a crowd, which Terpstra says are important experiences.
“With the speeches, they are allowed to talk on subjects they are interested in,” she said. “Storytelling and talking like that are a lost art.”
Terpstra also said the competition is a way for youth to get involved with and promote agriculture, which is something they may not get to do often through school.
“Agriculture is a family passion at our home,” she said. “Chelsea is a grad of Ridgetown College, my son Cole eats and lives farming and Alison is in landscape design. Emily has her own experience with the Princess competition.”
Terpstra herself wasn’t always on a farm, having married into agriculture 22 years ago.
“My friends were all farm kids when I was growing up, but I was a town girl,” she said. “Once I got here, though, I saw what makes it great. It teaches children to nurture themselves and their world and teaches about the circle of life – not just life, but death as well, which is an important aspect of it.”
She said that the farm animals, the large, open spaces and the experience of farming is one that provides a unique experience for children growing up on farms and something like the Princess competition allows them to share it with the rest of the world.