An old-fashioned Returned Peace Corps Volunteer gathering
By Sarah DeAngelis on Friday, September 6th, 2013
When Glenn Blumhorst became president of the National Peace Corps Association, there was no doubt that he brought a wealth of professional talents to the job.
What wasn’t so obvious is that the man knows his way around a plow.
Over Labor Day weekend, Glenn traveled to the Howell Living History Farm in New Jersey to serve as the awards presenter for the 30th Annual Plowing Match. His mission: to meet local Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), talk about the ongoing impact of their Peace Corps service and the work of the NPCA.
While on his stay at the farm, Glenn talked about the work of the NPCA and RPCV member groups as the grassroots mobilizers in their communities around the world.
The group he met included: Peter Watson (Benin 1972-76), director of the farm and host of the plowing match, Rob Flory (Kenya 1988-89; driving oxen), his wife Pam (judging adult novice class) as well as a small contingent of New Jersey RPCVs, including Dave and Pat Smits (Guatemala 1963-65), Gerry Gillio (Iran 1966-68) and John Lawlor (Dominican Republic 1974-76).
The event featured old-fashioned plowing, log pulling competitions, crafts and pony rides for children, great food, music and old-fashioned fun. The plowing match consisted of a dozen teams of draft animals from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, testing the performance of farmers, their horses and oxen, and their plows as they turned furrows. Judging took place from 10am until noon. Winners of the Fine Plowing, Novice and Old Timers classes received trophies, ribbons and cash prizes.
Pete worked as an agricultural extension agent while in Benin wit the Peace Corps. He’s been able to carry his passion for agriculture forward as the current director of Pleasant Valley Historical District and the director of Howell Living History Farm.
RPCVs continue to find the skills they obtained overseas very useful in their careers back in the states. The RPCV “teamsters” at the plowing match were fascinated by Glenn’s plowing experience — a skill he gained during his service in Guatemala.
The RPCVs of New Jersey, who organized the event, are eager for more RPCVs in the mid-Atlantic region to enjoy the special rural charms of the farm. They believe it could be a great focal point for low cost, family-friendly Peace Corps gatherings in the future.
And no plowing experience necessary!