Tuesday, 07 April 2015 11:38

Young ploughman’s first national contest

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While it’s Adam Mehrtens’ first National Championships, the plough he’s using has form from way back. While it’s Adam Mehrtens’ first National Championships, the plough he’s using has form from way back.

Twenty year old Adam Mehrtens will the youngest competitor at the 2015 National Ploughing Championship, but the plough he’ll be using has seen action at the highest level.

“It’s won the nationals and I think Bob said he’s even taken it to a world championship,” he told Rural News.

The reference to “Bob” is to his uncle, Bob Mehrtens, several times New Zealand champion with a conventional plough who has also won the nationals and competed on the world stage with a reversible.

Adam says “hanging around” with his uncle at ploughing matches when he was a kid was what got him into ploughing. “I started when I was about 12.”

Last year he set his sights on qualifying for the nationals and this year made it “after quite a few matches” with a win at Waimate.

He says he “hopes to do pretty well” at the nationals at Palmerston but is well aware of the level of competition he’ll face.

Pulling the trusty Kverneland will be a two-wheel drive Fiat 540 with ballasted back wheels and a new coat of paint “especially for the occasion.” When Rural News caught up with him a couple of weeks ago it just needed the seat re-fitting before hooking up to the plough and getting in some practice.

As for the plough, for all its history he says it is a “pretty standard” Kverneland match plough with steel mouldboards. “I’ll probably go to plastic mouldboards eventually; they reckon the dirt doesn’t stick to them like it can to steel.”

Fellow finalist Eric Gin from Oamaru also has plastic mouldboards on his wish list but even after “six or seven” previous appearances at the nationals, he says he’s still trying to master the art with steel. “Once I get up to the next level I’ll probably progress onto plastic.”

Gin qualified at Lincoln and is hoping he can go better than his previous bests at the nationals which was second on grass, also at Lincoln, in 2013, and fifth overall.

“You try to do a better job each time but there are a lot of variables that come in. You always think you’ll get it right next time but then there’s something else: the soil conditions, or you forget to do something. Once you’ve made a mistake there’s no going back. If it’s crooked [the judges] see that.”

It’s the challenge of perfect ploughing despite the variables that makes the sport so appealing, he says. “And I like meeting the other ploughmen and the camaraderie of the people involved.”

Mehrtens echoes Gin’s comments. “You can always do better. There’s always something to learn. It’s never ending really.”

Australian experience

Gin is one of about a dozen New Zealand ploughmen who have honed their skills during a long-running exchange trip to Australia courtesy of the NZ Ploughing Association.

“Every second year we send someone over to Australia and they plough at four or five matches,” explains NZ Ploughing Association executive officer Noel Sheat.

The association pays the airfare then the ploughmen are billeted with fellow enthusiasts across the ditch for ten days to a fortnight, using a tractor and plough supplied locally to compete.

“They’re always harder to beat after they’ve been,” notes Sheat. “They’re just that bit more knowledgeable. It’s the same with the World Championships. Every time you go you come back that little bit more knowledgeable.”

Ploughmen for the exchange are selected from the National Championship line-up. To be eligible they must not have been on the exchange before or finish above fifth.

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