Ploughing a path to the past

Old school farming takes place at Tranquiille Farm Fresh

Jason Hewlett / Kamloops Daily News
May 18, 2013 01:00 AM

Adam Degenstein of Armstrong sits atop a Massey-Harris disc while ploughing with his Clydesdale horses. Tranquille Farm Fresh is hosting a heavy-horse pull, which continues Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. The event is open to the public with a $5 admission to help cover the cost of bringing in the horse teams.

There was a time when teams of heavy horses and ploughs did the work of tractors and other modern farm equipment.

Visitors to Tranquille on the Lake Friday glimpsed a type of farming not seen in the region for more than 60 years as six heavy horse teams from the Inland Draft Teamsters Association worked the earth at the former sanatorium and tuberculosis clinic.

Their efforts are open to the public until noon Saturday.

Tranquille Farm Fresh spokeswoman Cindy Hayden said the horses ploughed the fields and seeded ancient grains like barley, emmer wheat, khorasan and red fife.

Come fall, the horses and teamsters will return and operate a vintage thrasher for the harvest, said Hayden.

The work gave the teams the opportunity to not only partake in a style of farming rarely practiced in the west, but to also show off the horses and equipment, said teamster president Dennis Ryan.

The ground is disked first, he said, referring to the metal blades that cut tracks in the ground and rip weeds from the earth. Next comes harrowing, which levels out the earth, then seeding.

All this is done using a team of horses and one driver, who rides atop the plough, said Ryan.

Pritchard rancher Steve Laughlin said this was the only way to farm prior to the introduction of the tractor in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

"There were little tractors, but they (farmers) were still using horses," he said.

The majority of horse farming was done during the homesteading days of the 1920s, he said. Laughlin has been driving horses since 1979.

"It's the power," Laughlin said of the activity's appeal. "It's nice to have that power. If you get into driving, it's quite different."

Several people watched as the Clydesdales, Fjords, Suffolk Punch and Friesian draft horses worked the field. The animals' feet and the ploughs left clouds of dust in their wake.

Former Tranquille employees John Follweiter and Terry Norlander were among the crowd. Both farmers, they did everything from irrigating the crops to slaughtering pigs in the abattoir.

Follweiter worked at Tranquille from 1961 to 1986. Although tractors took over by the time he started, his family used teams of horses and ploughs on their farm in Brocklehurst.

He enjoyed seeing the horses work, he said. A horse could churn one acre of earth a day. A team of two horses would prep two acres of ground.

"It brings you back to old times. We used to do that when we were kids," said Follweiter.

At its peak, Tranquille was a self-sufficient community that produced enough food to sell to hospitals as far away as Vernon. Follweiter said he's glad the location is being farmed again.

"It was a good place to work. I liked working here," he said.

School groups were out on Thursday and parents, teachers, children and seniors visited on Friday. Laughlin said some of the youths had never touched a horse before.

"The kids with all these iPhones and games and stuff, if there was a horse right in front of them they probably wouldn't see it," Laughlin joked.

"It's sad really."

Hayden said Tranquille is open to the public with a variety of events through the summer, including a market that starts Saturday, June 1 at 9 a.m.

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