Horses break ground on Spring Plow Day

Darren DiekmannFeatured News, News, St. Joseph0 Comments

by Darren Diekmann

news@thenewsleaders.com

Lenny Gillitzer’s farmyard and field was a hub of activity May 5, as dozens of members of the Northern Minnesota Draft Horse Association and their teams of horses gathered for their Spring Plow Day to work their horses, have fellowship, share experiences and to prepare Gillitzers’s field for planting.

The Gillitzer field, east of St. Joseph along CR 75, is one of the preferred locations for the spring event. Gillitzer has hosted it several years off and on he said, and this is about the third year in a row. Part of the reason is he is centrally located and convenient for the other members. Also, the soil is nearly ideal for the horse-drawn plows.

“My soil is on the lighter side,” Gillitzer said. “It scours the plows real nice(ly). It pulls eas(ily). And it dries out real(ly) nice(ly), much more quickly than others. Some of the soils in other areas are heavy and hard to turn over.”

The association is about 250 members strong, said Mike Berthiaume, an association board member. Members are involved in several events, such as logging in Grand Rapids, not directly connected to the group. The association also hosts Fall Field Day in Richmond.

The members and horses worked the fields most of the morning, then took a break from the heat of the sun for a potluck meal.

“This spring event is nice for us, to get the horses out, and get them working,” Berthiaume said. “We have a good time. It’s a time to talk and catch up.”

Gillitzer agreed. He said he found the day gratifying.

“I like the camaraderie and all the interesting aspects that go along with it. I have been into farming all of my life,” he said.

Some may wonder what is the point of all the work. Berthiaume said it’s important to preserve history and educate people about the past.

“It’s going back in time, to see what it was like back when,” he said. “We are preserving some of this vintage equipment. . . . Our country wouldn’t be what it is today without our horses and oxen and plows.”

photo by Darren Diekmann
Mike Berthiaume, Rockford, sits atop a John Deere two-wheel sulky, single-blade plow, circa 1900, pulled by his team of shires, Sven and Abby. They are preparing a field outside of St. Joseph owned by Lenny Gillitzer of St. Joseph.

Author: Darren Diekmann

Diekmann grew up in Mounds View, Minnesota. He attended St. Cloud State University to wrestle and study English. He has been an infrequent freelance writer for several years, mostly for the Monitor-Review, a small paper that served the southern Minnesota town of Adams. He and his wife recently moved to Sauk Rapids to watch their grandchildren grow. He has been freelance writing for the Newsleaders since late 2015, and is still trying to get used to the novelty of having an editor.

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