Keeping rural volunteerism alive

The IPM has depended on contributions from Ontario’s ag community for over 100 years

By Kaitlynn Anderson
Staff Reporter

Since the first International Plowing Match and Rural Expo (IPM) in 1913, the Ontario Plowmen’s Association (OPA) has relied on volunteers.

Beginning in Toronto at Sunnybrook Farm (now the location of Sunnybrook Hospital), the event has toured across the province, showcasing rural communities and their residents.

Throughout its history, the IPM has recruited “very few staff,” according to Cathy Lasby, executive director of the OPA.

In fact, the event requires approximately 1,000 volunteers each year to fill the variety of positions, she said.

    OPA photo

Despite this large number, the organization has not faced any difficulties in recruiting people to help.

The organization’s volunteer base stays very constant, Lasby said. “We have not seen a decline in the number of people stepping forward to volunteer.”

This ongoing support could be due to the fact that the OPA provides each host community with a timeline and guidelines to ease the event planning and execution process. These tools may prevent volunteers from becoming overwhelmed.

“We’ve never come into a situation where we can’t find a person to look after what needs to be done,” Lasby said. “I appreciate that not every event or organization can say that.”

Individuals and groups interested in volunteering at this year’s IPM, hosted by Chatham-Kent from Sept. 18 to 22, can assist with many activities both prior to and during the event.

People can select some of the following interests on the online volunteer application form:

  • Plowing (horse management, tractor park, etc.)
  • Marketing (souvenirs, signage, website, etc.)
  • Special events (awards, lunches, parking, wagon tours, worship service, etc.)
  • Tented city (health and safety, landscaping, water and sanitation, etc.)
  • Administration (corporate partners, gates, tickets)
  • Special features (antiques, information booths, lounge, education, entertainment, etc.)
  • RV park (registration, shuttle, etc.)

Applicants can also choose to be a general volunteer and have the OPA find a position for them. (A PDF version of the application form can also be found here.)

For more information, contact the OPA by email ( or by phone (519-350-1686). The organization is also hosting the following volunteer sign-up days:

  • Jan. 19 at the Ridgetown Library from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Jan. 23 at the Tilbury Library from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 7 at the Thamesville Library from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • March 16 at the Wallaceburg Library from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. BF

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