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Ploughing returns to Laois

on .

This year, the National Ploughing Association takes place on the Carter farm in Stradbally, Co. Laois. We spoke to the Carter family, on whose land most of the event will be held
The biggest agricultural event in Ireland will be hosted in Stradbally, Co. Laois, this year when the National Ploughing Championships takes place on September 24, 25 and 26.
It will bridge a 70-year gap since the Championships was last held in the area. David Carter and his family will be the main landowners, with many neighboring farmers providing ploughing and parking ground to meet the requirement of 700 acres for this huge event.
The economic impact of the Ploughing Championships in 2011 was a staggering Ä36m and with plans for the 2013 event in the final stages, it seems likely that this very central Laois location, just off the N80 and M7, will draw an even bigger attendance than last year's 187,000.
This year's event takes place very close to NPA Managing Director Anna May McHugh's home county and a number of sites were in contention to host the event this year.
However, it was the Carter farm near Stradbally that won through and it is befitting that the venue chosen for 2013 marks 70 years since the Championships were first held in Co. Laois. On that occasion, in 1943, Ratheniska hosted the event. Since then, the Championships were also held in Ballacolla, Co. Laois in 1995, 2000 and 2002. This year will mark the fifth time the National Ploughing Championships takes place in O'Moore County.
Clive Carter farms with his father, David, in Stradbally, Co. Laois. They mainly farm tillage, wheat barley and oil seed rape, as well as grass for cattle, often fattening beef cattle over the winter.
Neither Clive nor his father has any pedigree in ploughing at a competitive level but, when their neighbour suggested their farm would be an ideal host farm for the event, they were delighted to be considered.
"We were approached after last year's Ploughing. A neighbour, involved in Laois ploughing, wondered if we would let them look around and see if the site was suitable. And it went from there," says Clive. While Clive hasn't competed in any ploughing competition, he's looking forward to seeing the high level of competition on his doorstep.
The Carter farm will play host to the trade stand section of the Championships, while some neighbouring farms will host the actual ploughing and parking. The farm is an ideal location, as it provides good access with a network of roads from all corners of the country running closeby. It's also a level site as it is nearly all one field, providing the minimum number of obstacles to setting up the three-day event.
The work behind the scenes to create the event has been ongoing since spring. According to Clive, the architects and engineers came out to the farm in spring to design the layout, and the main work started on the site in early August.
"It was then when the actual work of laying tracks and creating access points through ditches began to take place. Since then, there has been a great buzz around the farm and beyond." Neighbours and friends have all been intrigued by the site work, as water pipes and electricity cables were laid and a well was dug to provide enough water on site. "It's only really just started to get going. A lot of people are coming and going and getting excited about it."
The Carters had the land in grass this year, which meant harvesting was not interrupted.
As for a return to normality when the crowds leave and the trade stands pack up, it will take weeks for the farm to return to that state, he says.
"It takes nearly eight weeks to set up, so it will take a while for it to be taken apart." However, with the dry summer we've had, he's not concerned about the condition of the site post Ploughing. "Once the tracks went down in good condtions, it means a lot. The ground is dry and all the heavy traffic will stay on the mats. It's not going to be a major issue, unless it does become extremely wet, so the ground should recover quickly." As soon as the event is finished it, will go back into spring crops and back to regular farming. But, in the meantime, the Carters are looking forward to having the largest agricultural event in the calendar on their farm. "Myself and my father will be there every day. While I will probably have seen most of it beforehand, the crowds will give its a real lift and sense of occasion. And we will get to see some actual ploughing too."
This year will see an array of new and exciting exhibitors as well as hundreds of veteran companies showcasing their products and services. All of the agricultural sectors will be well represented and a number of product launches are planned for the event. The machinery section, for the first time, has Lucas G SAS, travelling from France to showcase its feeders, straw bedders and diet feeders.
The National Ploughing Association is working in conjunction with Failte Ireland and Tourism Ireland to be part of the Gathering Ireland Initiative for 2013. It will be introducing a traditional céilí to the event as part of the Gathering Ireland, showcasing traditional Irish culture to locan and overseas visitors.
Leader Village will be presenting entrepreneurs, businesses and a variety of groups supported by Leader, exhibiting a diversity of products and services all under one roof.
The actual ploughing competition has a particularly strong programme has attracted entries from all around the country and Northern Ireland. In all, the number preparing to plough in Laois will be 330 over the three days.