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Ploughing an Impressive Furrow
by Pete Small
Andrew Mitchell of Haughs of Ballinshoe near Forfar has just taken delivery of the tractor and plough and Runner Up trophy for the Conventional Class at the World Ploughing Championships in April.
This is not the first time the 21 year old has been on the winners podium at this event. He was runner up in Lithuania in 2007, and a year earlier, at his first attempt in the Republic of Ireland, he was crowned World Champion at just 17 – the youngest ever winner.
Winning at the first try is not unusual for Mitchell, as he took the Overall Champion title at his inaugural match at Alyth in 2002 at the tender age of 13. Ploughing experience was honed the previous winter when he started on his journey to ploughing success.
Prize winning ploughing is in his blood, as his father – also Andrew – is a champion ploughman with two World Reversible titles under his belt. He has been runner up twice and taken the European Reversible and Five Nations titles twice each.
His father's exploits have no doubt inspired young Andrew and the pair go into great detail on ploughing matters spending many hours in their workshop doing modifications and maintenance on their tractors and ploughs. It is not only his father that encourages Andrew, but mother Joyce is also on hand as support for both men if any thing is needed to be sorted out or organised when they are on their rigs.
Both use Ford New Holland tractors that are equipped with four wheel drive and extra spool valve capacity for the myriad of controls needed to adjust a match plough.
Young Andrew's tractor, a 1995 Ford 5030, has a power adjusted land wheel fitted to allow for quick wheel width changes when closing out a finish. There is also a large steel box on the front end that carries spares and acts as extra ballast for front wheel grip. At the rear of the cab is a large bank of spool valve controls for the many adjustments needed to produce a top job.
Both father and son also use light green Dowdswell ploughs, that are certainly not standard. Indeed young Andrew's plough was once the reversible his father won the 1994 title with. It has now been converted to a conventional plough with extra wheels to carry the weight and give an even wheel track over the soil.
All this engineering is second nature to Andrew, who is Service Manager for Agricar at Laurencekirk after serving his apprenticeship with the spanners. His father is also involved in agriculture and their busy work commitments make taking part in matches very difficult. To such an extent young Andrew only competes in around four local matches a year in Angus and the Mearns.
The most important match for the Mitchells is the Scottish Ploughing Championships, where they compete in the Saturday classes, hoping to qualify for the Sunday Plough Offs.
The winners of the conventional and reversible Plough Off get the chance to represent Scotland at the World Championships. To qualify for this years match in New Zealand Andrew won his fifth Scottish title at Brechin last October.
Conditions meant there was no reversible Plough Off and Saturday's results were used to decide who would be Scotland's reversible representative. Andy Greenhill from Perth had the honour with his Ford Overum pairing.
Back in January the two tractors and ploughs were loaded into a container at Ballinshoe for the long sea journey to the Antipodes. This was the first time that the Scottish team had sent the tractors with ploughs to the other side of the world, because the time restraint meant that practise and set up of local borrowed tractors would be limited.
This level of ploughing doesn't come cheap and both competitors were grateful for the sponsorship they received, which in Andrews case came from; Agricar, New Holland, Guild Homes, Good Year, Carnegie Fuels, Dowdswell, Angus Show, Grampian Super Match, Finavon Hotel, Superfine, Ritchie's of Forfar and Dave Carnegie. Both men also received funding from the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.
New Zealand proved to be a very memorable experience for Andrew. Despite absolutely bone dry conditions on what was some of the best and most even soil on a World site, he was runner up on both Grass and Stubble. He was beaten by Overall Champion Bruce Redmond, who had local advantage farming next door to the site on the Canterbury Plains.
The Icelandic ash cloud meant that flights home were disrupted and an extra few days were spent touring the country – an aspect that Andrew enjoys in his ploughing travels, meeting new people and seeing other cultures.
In the future Andrew indicated he may try another discipline at ploughing but the immediate future will see both Mitchell's enter for the Scottish Championships at Upper Nisbet near Jedburgh on October 23rd and 24th, where Scotland will also host the European Vintage and the Five Nations Championships. Both will be trying their best to beat the stiff competition that enters the Scottish to get the chance to plough in Sweden in 2011.