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CAHIERS SPÉCIAUX

by Isabel Mosseler
Tribune


As an 11-year-old boy, Daniel Olivier was awakened in the middle of the night, dragged out of his bed and driven hours away from his home in Verner - and it’s one of his fondest memories. That long drive led to his first glimpse at an incredible event that sparked his passion for farming and became an annual tradition he holds dear to this day, 50 years later. The difference next year, however, is that he will be hosting that grand event on his land, right here in West Nipissing! Next September, Olivier will become the official host farmer for the 2019 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo, the world’s biggest agricultural showcase, expected to bring over 80,000 visitors.

Olivier explains that his father, an immigrant from France, was an intellectual who got into farming post-war as a result of government policies. In his words, “In 1968 I was 11 years old, born from a father that spent years trying to survive WW2 – from 1939 to 44… He and his mom survived, and came here in 1952, after 5 years of mandatory [military] service. He did that service with grace, because he knew the benefit. He told me ‘If you want to lead the world, you have to see the world, and most importantly, understand the world’… So he took me to the plowing match, to meet the world, to get out of northern Ontario. Back then it was quite the trip to go to southern Ontario, in the 1960’s. At 4:00 a.m., we drove to Monetville, me in the back seat of the car, we drove in to the school to pick up Percy Purcell, got back into the car at 5. Back then, Hwy 69 was open about a decade, and all I remember was that I woke up in southern Ontario.”

That was his first plowing match, his first time away from the north. “Back then the plowing match was three times as big as it is now. Now it’s 15,000 a day; back then it was 45,000 a day, so imagine the size of it. Huge! And being a guy who couldn’t say two words of English to save my life, we walked around in astonishment – it was a precursor of years to come; that was my introduction.” He was fascinated, overwhelmed and inspired. He’s been going nearly every year ever since, and this year marked his 50th year as a plowing match supporter. It was all the more significant as he was there in Chatham-Kent with the local organizing committee and introduced as the next host farmer, with the 2018 host farmer passing on the mantle (in the form of a sombrero) in front a huge, cheering crowd.

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Daniel Olivier receives the symbolic sombrero making him the official host farmer of the International Plowing Match and Rural Expo, at the end of the 2018 IPM in Chatham-Kent. The event also marked the 50th anniversary of his very first IPM, in 1968, when he attended with this father at age 11. The next IPM in September 2019 will be held in Verner, in large part on Olivier’s land.

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