Saturday, 09 May 2015 16:51

A big wave from Kiwi Keith

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Jim Brooker (83), of Darfield, was an interested spectator at this year’s NZ Ploughing Champion. Jim Brooker (83), of Darfield, was an interested spectator at this year’s NZ Ploughing Champion.

Jim Brooker (83), of Darfield, recalls winning the first NZ Ploughing Championship at Oamaru in 1956 when he was 23 years old.

The sponsor was the Atlantic Oil Company, the NZ division of the Esso Oils and Fuel Company. The first prize was a round-the-world air ticket with Canadian Pacific Airlines, including flights to Hawaii and Vancouver, a train trip through the Rockies to Toronto, then a flight to Shillingford near Oxford, UK.

There a tractor and plough were provided by International Harvester Company – a B250 tractor and an Ace 8 plough.

“At 83 years old I remember the details probably easier than things that happen today,” says Brooker.

He finished 11th out of 25 ploughmen from 13 countries. He was farewelled from NZ by Prime Minister Sid Holland and his Minister of Agriculture Keith Holyoake.

“When I arrived to plough in UK, I was the only contestant who did not have a manager, judge or coach.”

Brooker started ploughing after he left school at 15 and worked on the family farm at Hawarden, North Canterbury, also doing shearing. He first competed using a plough borrowed from the neighbours – a TEA 24 and a two-furrow, Fergusson plough. All ploughing events were then run by Young Farmers clubs.

He qualified at an YFC event at Amuri, North Canterbury, and at 23 won the first New Zealand Ploughing Association final, using his dad’s IH W4 and an IH Ace plough. “That was a three-furrow plough that I changed to a two furrow.”

He recalls 26 competitors in a one-day event ploughing only grass.  

Brooker bought his first 80ha farm at Lowburn, “covered in gorse” and over 13 years built it up to 324ha. It was flat, rolling to steep. He sold this and moved to 300ha at Kirwee, since built up to 567ha.

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