Yorkshire ploughing match where young farmers keep the tradition alive

Encouraging recruitment of new members has always been part of the YFC movement and Chris Baines, one of the organisers behind tomorrow’s Rillington Young Farmers Club Ploughing Match, was one such success for his local club when he joined at 16, six years after starting age, but he made up for any lost time having been club chairman six of his ten years involved.

Chris says his first experience, on what was also his ploughing match debut, meeting up with club members, set up both his subsequent ploughing match activities and his young farmers club career.

“Rillington is my local club. I grew up in Yedingham, but you don’t have to stick to where you were born. It’s not like a school catchment area type of thing. I started with Rillington YFC after I had left school and had started working for HA Simpson & Son at Seamer, for Martin Simpson, where I still am today.

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“I got recruited into the club at the Rillington YFC Ploughing Match which I’d gone to with Martin’s New Holland tractor and Kverneland plough and had entered the Reversible class. I got to chat with some of the members and the club looked quite fun.

Chris Baines at a previous ploughing matchChris Baines at a previous ploughing match
Chris Baines at a previous ploughing match

“It was the first ploughing match I’d ever competed in. As a child growing up I’d always gone to watch matches and had been well into it. I’ve been into farming all my life. My mum’s side of the family were farmers. My grandparents were pig farmers.

“They’d sold up years ago and I always knew that if I was going to get involved in agriculture I’d have to get a job somewhere else if I wanted to work on a farm. I studied for four years at Askham Bryan College while working as an apprentice for Martin.

Chris has his own tractor and plough now and competes in the conventional classes with a New Holland TS115 and a 3-furrow Kverneland plough which he bought to continue taking part in ploughing matches and has also become one of the mainstays in the organisation of Rillington’s annual fixture.

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“I’ve had a few first places and I’ll take part in maybe 6 or 7 matches a year. The number I take part in generally all depends on weather. I’ll aim to get to Amotherby YFC, Snainton YFC, Brandesburton YFC matches and others including a local vintage club match. In the future I would like to get a smaller 2-wheel drive tractor and plough in the Vintage Mounted class.

Rillington Ploughing match David LaleyRillington Ploughing match David Laley
Rillington Ploughing match David Laley

Chris says that organising a venue for a ploughing match needs careful consideration as well as finding the farmer or landowner who is happy for the event to take place.

“With this winter having been quite wet the job was more a case of finding a field that was fairly sandy going, which would mean the ploughing match wouldn’t be as easily cancelled as sandy land generally means decent draining. In my time organising we’ve never had to call it off completely. We had to postpone by two weeks one year when the forecast had been a really bad day for the initial date.

“We are on Albanwise’s land this year. It’s not anybody directly involved with the club, we’ve got it more because of the contacts I have. I tend to take on the ploughing match each year because it’s my forte, but others are involved in the organisation too and this year that’s our new chairman Josh Stockill and our secretary Lizzie Jackson.

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“We’ve been on Albanwise’s land before a few years ago. It’s alongside the A64 in West Heslerton opposite the football field.

“We aspire for about 80 participants and prepare 80 plots. We’ve never had more than 80 but in recent years we’ve had in the 60s and 70s.

Chris says that Rillington Ploughing Match entries are always taken on the day and that while there are a number of older ploughmen and women that take part there are also a healthy number of young farmers from the clubs in Ryedale YFC district.

“Some match organisers like to take entries beforehand, but there’s a lot of work if you do that. We just like to work on a blank canvas on the day and sign people in there and then. We have a rough idea how many are coming beforehand.

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“We usually have around 10 young farmers competing as well as all those who come along for the event, which is always well attended. There’s a prize for the young farmer competing who gets most points.

“We have eight classes that include Reversible, Conventional, Ferguson, World Style, Trailed, Vintage Mounted, Classic and Young Farmers.

Chris is particularly happy with the way Rillington YFC has become one of Ryedale’s biggest clubs for membership in the past few years and how it is as vibrant as at any time in his 10-year involvement.

“Until two years ago we didn’t have many members. We were only just into the teens and there were times when I thought are we flogging a dead horse here? Is it going to shut down?

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“When you talk with older members they all say it comes in peaks and troughs and is often all down to people moving on to university or different friendships. We had a real push the September before last and since then we’ve ended up with over 50 members for the past two years.

“Having more members means it becomes a lot easier to do other things and there’s a greater enthusiasm to do more. Last October we hosted a Halloween themed tractor run with 30 tractors and raised money for RABI.

“We also now have a lot of younger people, who should stay with us for a good time, as well as a handful, like me in their mid-20s and a few in their mid-late teens. It’s a good mix.

Rillington YFC Ploughing Match takes place tomorrow Sunday February 25 (arrival 9am, start 9.30am) opposite the football field/Stones Garage. Postcode YO17 8SG.

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