Horse Progress Days Features Horse-Drawn Equipment and More
Horse Progress Days began as a way for implement dealers to hawk their wares, but it’s become a full-blown movement.
A wood splitter powered by Athens Enterprises' horse treadmill.
Horse Progress Days is the event to experience for anyone who has ever looked at that acre or two on their horse farm and envisioned row after row of vegetables. It’s for the hobby farmer who is ready to make a go at full-time farming by taking his operation the sustainable, economical route.
This event was created with those in mind who are seriously considering small farming. The 2012 Horse Progress Days is set for June 29-30 at the Alvin Yoder farm in Clare, Michigan.
The genesis of Horse Progress Days dates back to the 1990s, when draft-horse farmers — predominantly Amish — were looking for a central event where implement manufacturers could demonstrate their products. Since then, interest has grown among non-Amish farmers, following a trend toward produce farming to meet the demand for locally grown and organic foods.
However, interest from large farms is emerging as well, according to Henry King, a majority partner in White Horse Machinery.
“Over the past several years, the bigger farms, non-Amish farms, are going to horse farming,” says King, who hosted the 2011 Horse Progress Days on his farm near Kinzers, Pennsylvania. “The movement today is for healthier diets, and people are willing to pay for these kinds of products. In the future, because of the economics of fuel, the viability of the farm may hinge on doing a lot more work with horses.”
Seminars at Horse Progress Days are moving more toward produce, but horse trainers and farm techniques still round out the schedule of events. The highlight of the two-day event is horse-drawn machinery demonstrations, where implements are put to work in the fields.
The event is rotated on an annual schedule between locations in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and northern and southern Indiana. The events tend to center around Amish communities, where the latest innovations in draft-horse farming and related horticulture can be presented in a natural farm setting.
The farm hosting the event gives up a few acres of arable land for the season, turning it over to demonstrations of horse-drawn equipment. A good chunk of pasture goes to vendors and food stands.
Anyone new to this type of agriculture will first notice the absence of the combustion engine’s assault on the ears. Instead, there is a snap of leather and the jingling of harness as a walk-behind plow bites into the soil and a furrow turns in the earth. It’s no wonder many horse farmers describe their time in the fields as meditative. Rather than powering through the fields under a cloud of diesel, the horse farmer and team seem to glide.
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