Sunday, July 03, 2016

Horse Progress Days 2016

I spent most of yesterday at the 2016 Horse Progress Days in Howe, Indiana. As the name suggests, the event is driven around (pun intended) progress made in animal powered farming. Their mission statement:
To encourage and promote the combination of animal power and the latest equipment innovations in an effort to support sustainable small scale farming and land stewardship.To show draft animal power is possible, practical and profitable.
As you can imagine, an event about animal (i.e. horse for the most part) powered farming draws lots of Amish but this is not an exhibition of rusty old obsolete stuff you would see rotting behind a barn. The show featured some incredible technology on display and I can tell you from first hand knowledge that many Amish are far more profitable in their enterprises than the most modern "English" farms with their fancy and expensive tractors and combines. I took some pictures, some include Amish which they don't like but as I was taking a picture of something else they ended up in I guess it is OK.

Below are some of the new hay equipment on display, mowers, rakes, balers, etc. Hay making is critical for the Amish as they require a steady supply to feed their horses and other livestock throughout the year whenever pasture is not available. Raising hay for Amish would be like an "English" farmer pumping his own oil and refining it right at his farm to run his machinery with.

As you might expect there were a handful of buggies on the lot although a lot of people came from all over the country and even some from overseas. Lots and lots and lots of 15 passenger vans, mine included, filled the parking area. One thing that sets "Northern Indiana" Amish apart from our local Amish, other than the manner of dressing, is that they ride bikes everywhere so there were probably as many bikes parked as buggies. Coming and going down the main road leading to the exhibition there were far more bikes on the road than buggies.

My favorite team of draft animals were this duo of  Mammoth donkeys. Note the sign on the harness, "Not A Mule", which cracked me up for some reason. This mower is ground driven, so rather than a horse drawn implement that runs on hydraulics and gears driven by a gas powered engine, the action of pulling the implement causes the mower bar to run. It is very quiet compared to the gas powered mowers and does a pretty good job. It is probably more "traditional" than the gas powered mowers so it is kinda ironic that an "English" guy is driving it with mules instead of an Amish guy with horses.  

Another couple of teams I liked were a team of Norwegian Fjord horses (the cream colored team) and a team of spotted draft horses (the spotted team of course). While there were a ton of Belgian and Percheron teams which are of course beautiful and powerful, I see those up close all the time but these breeds are rather rare and I think more aesthetically appealing than the plain brown or black drafts. Draft horses are utilitarian so power trumps beauty but for those who don't make a living with them I like some of the more unusual breeds:

Of course there was the random team of oxen....

So all and all a pretty good time. This event is in Pennsylvania next year, it moves around the country although usually near the Amish, so I doubt we will make it but it was a fascinating look at a way of farming that is both very, very old and traditional while at the same time very modern and efficient.

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