Competition Plowing: First In Furrows

An Ohio farmer digs into a vintage sport—competition plowing.

By Mark Johnson | Photos By Jamie Cole

For Dale Dircksen, plowing is an addictive, competitive sport and a ticket to world travel. “Plowing has provided me an opportunity to travel and meet people I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise,” says Dircksen, who with his wife, Karen, farms 2,100 acres of soybeans, wheat and corn in Union City, Ohio. “It’s taken me places I never would have expected.”

Dircksen placed first in the United States Plowing Organization (USAPO) Reversible Class the last two years in a row, 2017 and 2018. Driving an AGCO® Challenger® MT465B tractor, he has represented the United States in the World Ploughing Competition four times between 2012 to 2018, competing in Croatia, Canada, France and Germany. 

Dircksen says his passion for plowing began a decade ago when a neighbor suggested he try competition plowing as a hobby. “It took me a while to get the hang of it, but then it became fun,” he says. “There’s something really satisfying about looking back at your plot when you’re done and seeing how nice it all looks.”

He says his plowing class is judged on furrow uniformity, straightness and depth; where the plow is dropped and lifted at borders of the half-acre plot; and how well the final furrow is placed. He uses the MT465B because “the 16-speed shuttle shift allows seamless changes in speed without the loss of power.” 

USAPO President John Gaard says the sport has existed in America for much longer than most people realize. “Scottish and English settlers brought competition plowing to the American Corn Belt probably 200 years ago,” he says. “A national plowing contest was created in 1939, and it’s been around ever since.”

Gaard says while the prevalence of no-till planting and herbicide use has tempered the popularity of competition plowing in America, “It’s still a big deal in Europe. Dale has represented our country well in this sport, and we’re proud that he’s part of our team.”

For more on competition plowing, visit the United States Ploughing Organization website at