Ploughing in the national finals in Thornbury recently, Alistair Rutherford had high hopes defending his 2017 vintage ploughing title.
The Waimumu man was one of 10 finalists competing in the Agricentre South Ltd New Holland Agriculture Vintage Ploughing Class at the New Zealand Ploughing Championships.
“I’d won it last year and had been up there in the season,” he said.
“I knew I had a pretty good chance.”
He performed best on the first day on the stubble, as ground conditions had proved favourable, compared with the grassland on the second day, where he was equal in points with second placegetter Murray Grainger, of Mosgiel.
Overall, he won the top spot over Mr Grainger by 21 points.
“I’ve got to say, Southland conditions I am used to and I plough better here.”
Mr Rutherford has competed in 24 New Zealand Ploughing Championships in total – 10 in the vintage class and 14 in the silver plough class.
He has won the vintage class seven times out of 10.
For 50 years he has been out in the paddocks, ploughing or judging, starting the sport when he was just 20 years old.
“We did one or two Young Farmer ones. I cobbered up and we formed a bit of a team.”
The pair used to go to all the ploughing matches in Southland and Otago.
When he started ploughing, there was only one class, the silver plough, then later the reversible class was added, followed by the vintage class and horse class.
Mr Rutherford did quite well competing in the silver plough class but he never actually won it.
“My son come along and he was ploughing vintage and I said ‘I think we’ve got this the wrong way around’,” he said.
The pair then swapped ploughs, and while his son has since stopped ploughing, Mr Rutherford continues in the vintage class.
Ploughs were becoming more modernised in the silver plough class, and Mr Rutherford’s 1908 Reid and Gray plough is one of the oldest used in competition.
Restrictions in the vintage class meant ploughs had to be built before 1956.
“They should be kept as original as possible,” he said.
In Southland and Otago ploughing matches there were about a dozen competitors who took part in each one, and they were all gearing up for the start of the new season next month.
As well as being involved in ploughing himself, Mr Rutherford is also working on bringing the next generation into the sport, and is working with some high school boys in the Gore area.
“It’ll be good to get some groups in there coming through.”