Horse progress? Absolutely — just ask the Amish

Demonstrations at 20th annual event will show just what hooved helpers can do on the farm

ARCOLA — No matter how many horsepower your car has, there's still a lot to be said for the power of one.

The Amish, including those in the Arcola/Arthur area, have been making do with horse and plow for centuries, and their produce is considered of the highest quality.

Small farmers and truck farmers have also found it more convenient to use equine rather than turbine power, said Vernon Yoder, the general coordinator of the 20th annual Horse Progress Days.

The two-day event has returned this week to Yoder's farm outside Arcola, bringing with it nearly 150 vendors.

Yoder, who is Amish, has hosted the festival before; it travels every year between states where there are Amish populations or plenty of small farms.

"It draws a lot of Amish, but also lots of English," Yoder said, using the term for non-Amish.

They come from Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania, as well as other states. Students from Russia and Germany are also coming to learn to start farming with horses, Yoder said.

Yoder expects as many as 16,000 people to flood into Arthur and Arcola (as well as Tuscola's motels and restaurants) for what is becoming a treasure trove of back-to-the-earth, hardy individualist farming and housing.

Wood- and propane-powered stove vendors are also part of the show. It's all about being off the grid.

As the Amish are taught, and others have agreed: "Be Ye Separate."

The full quote from II Corinthians 6:17 is "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you."

Though they can use modern conveniences, the Amish do it under their own power, whether that means hitching a horse or sometimes connecting to a generator.

Newcomers are welcome, Yoder said, and some of the events are geared to newbies.

This year is the third for a program to teach teamster and horse handling skills to those who wish to explore the possibility of working with horses.

Though a few days is not long enough for a newcomer to become a teamster, Yoder said, it offers a window into whether those new to the horse-drawn world might want to go further.

Presenters Ferman Wengerd of Pioneer Equipment and Canadian Kim Hadwen, a horse farmer, will take the reins.

Horse Progress Days also features foods and other attractions for people who are new to the horse-powered experience.

Mike Aikman, executive vice president of State Bank of Arthur, said the event grows bigger every year.

"We're anticipating that people will come for that event, stay in Arthur and eat here," he said. "Every time it comes to Arcola, it seems to build on itself.

"It's also interesting to anyone wanting to live a simpler life not using electricity."

The event, held every six years in Arcola, promotes new horse-drawn machinery, Yoder said.

"There are a lot of businesses doing nothing but horse machinery and repair," he said. "Smaller farms really need this kind of work."

Working with horses or oxen makes farmers more connected to the earth, Yoder said. His own farm has 100 tillable acres, and he said he would never need anything but horses.

If you go

What: The 2013 Horse Progress Days

When: July 5-6

Where: Vernon J. Yoder Farm, 650 E County Road 400 N, Arcola (2 miles north and 21/2 miles west of Arcola)

THE SCHEDULE

Percheron Thunder, 7:45 a.m.

Pony Pull, 8 a.m.

Field Demonstrations, 9 a.m. (field demonstrations traditionally begin with manure spreaders to be followed by plows and all tillage equipment)

Produce Demonstrations, 9 a.m. (plows and tillage, roto tillage, transplanting, cultivators, sprayers, no-till cultivators, sprayers, no-till pumpkins, mulch lifter, irrigation hookups and overhead demonstrations showing drip and overhead techniques)

Sheep Herding, 10 a.m.

Speaker Krist King, noon (lunch break speaker is a legendary cowboy)

Hay Demonstration, 1 p.m. (hay demonstrations traditionally begin with mowers from small to large, to be followed by rakes and balers)

Plant Diagnostic Problems, 2:30 p.m.

Auction, 4 p.m.

Breed Presentation, 5 p.m. Friday (4 p.m. Saturday)

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