Environmental Leadership Center
Warren Wilson College
Campus Box 6323
P.O. Box 9000
Asheville, NC 28815-9000
Please refer comments or questions about this website to Ellen Querin.
By Casey Doyle
I noted the crispness in the air as I walked down to Warren Wilson’s farm for our 13th annual Plow Day. Greeted by the sound of blue-grass, I observed the apple cider that was being hand pressed with a medieval looking machine, and several vendors, including Warren Wilson’s Fiber Arts Crew, that peddled hand made products.
Perhaps most obvious though, were the teams of horses that plowed the fields and the families that accompanied them. One small group encircled a resting plow to check in on the work-worn horses, patting them in appreciation as they checked harnesses and discussed the work that was being accomplished. A group of women, clearly old friends, sat in lawn chairs, watching their children as they comfortably played in the presence of the large horses that plowed the fields. It was odd for me to hear the women discuss the kids’ soccer practices along with their family farms’ harvest for fall- the farm life so engrained and natural to their existence. Many groups of families and friends merged, greeting each other by name and inquiring about this year’s crops, making it clear that there was a real farm community present on Plow Day.
As chatter of crops, plowing and farming continued, a parade of sorts made its way down the stretch of grass where observers sat, so plowers and horse owners could proudly show off their animals and craft. As two huge black horses sauntered passed, towing an oversized carriage behind them and drawing the attention of almost everyone, one man commented, “Well aren’t those two of the biggest horses you have ever seen?” As a replied, and continued to chat, I found that this man was Roy, a first year attendee of Plow Day.
Interested to find what drew Roy to the event, I took a seat with him on a dormant horse plow to further discuss his involvement in plowing. He explained that he lived on a farm in Fairview as a child. Roy’s father taught him how to steer a team of horses after four year old Roy was left stuck on an uncontrolled sled when his father fell off. Roy recalls, “all my experience with them was under the age of six,” remembering how his parents would get him to help plow the fields when they needed an extra hand.
Roy came to the festival to bring back old memories of his life on the farm. “I was longing to maybe plow the fields again,” he said. Roy explained that when he was in first grade his father died. He was happy to attend Plow Day because it brought back so many fond memories of his childhood and of his father. This connection to heritage is perhaps one of the most important elements of Plow Day. It is not just about turning the soil and getting ready to plant, for then Warren Wilson would simply use commercial plows. Plow Day, rather, is about families and community coming together to celebrate the beauty and importance of physically connecting to the land. Doing things the “old fashioned way,” is not only quaint, but provides a sense of tradition and can preserve what it means to work the land. “I think this is in touch with our roots and in touch with our animals. It is a tradition and heritage that we need to preserve for future generations,” Roy said, as he gazed out at the dozen or so teams plowing the field, with the purpose of doing just so.