Over 50 Years of Ploughing Contests in Croatia

The first ploughing contest in Croatia was held over 50 years ago, on 4 August 1957, on the land of the then “Žitnjak” gardening company. Competitors were farmers – tractor drivers from the area of what was then Zagreb District, approximately covering the area of what is today the City of Zagreb and Zagreb County. The winner of the contest was Mr. Josip Koprivnšček from Zaprešić agricultural cooperative. This was also the first ploughing contest held in former Yugoslavia. Despite the fact that farms at the time, especially private ones, were poorly equipped – in the entire area of Zagreb District there were only 46, mostly small, Ferguson tractors – the contest was a success.

The end of the sixties brought a more intensive “tractorization”, not only in cooperatives and social businesses but private farms as well. However, the technical culture of farmers of that time was at a very low level. Since there were no tractors or other agricultural machinery, farmers had no opportunity to learn anything about it. Associations of Agricultural Technologists were then established within the organization “Narodna tehnika”. In the form of courses and lectures these associations brought agricultural technology and modern technology closer to a wider circle of farmers. These associations of agricultural technologists were, naturally, the main organizers of the contests. The Zagreb Association of Agricultural Technologists, which organized numerous contests, is a good example. In addition, the Association played an active role in educating farmers, particularly the young ones. Over the course of the first 10 years, 1500 tractor drivers and 200 combine drivers were trained. The interest for acquiring the title of the tractor driver was extremely big, so big in fact, that students came all the way from the neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina. Another example of the interest of young farmers in operating agricultural technology, which very quickly spread through farms, was sending instructors to brigades at youth work actions with youth from predominantly from rural areas. It resulted in training a relatively large number of young farmers in operating modern technology. To ensure future tractor drivers the best possible training for their future jobs, they were not allowed to take the driving test (F category) without having completed the training.

Over the past several years, only ploughing contests are held, as is the case with the world championship. However, contests in Croatia used to consist of three parts: theory, skill driving with the trailer and ploughing itself. The theoretical part of the test contained questions regarding understanding of the engine, tractor, agricultural machinery, maintenance, preservation, machinery protection, as well as agricultural technology and traffic regulations. The maximum score was 30 points. Skill driving with the trailer encompassed driving a single-axle trailer (the young and women) and double-axle trailer (adults) on a specially arranged ground. The speed of mastering the ground was scored. An imaginary garage was placed on the ground. The trailer had to be parked in the garage in reverse, while touching the marks brought negative points. The maximum number of points to be won in this discipline was 30 as well. Understandably, the maximum number of points, 240, could be won in ploughing itself. Despite this fact, there were cases where the competitor with the maximum number of points won for ploughing did not win the overall contest due to points in other disciplines. However, seeing that ploughing was the main discipline, the best ploughman – the competitor winning the highest score for ploughing, regardless of the category - was always specifically announced and awarded in the contest. Competitors used to be divided into youth (young members of cooperatives), adults and women.
The first republic contest was held in 1958 in the city of Slavonski Brod. The first state contest (of former Yugoslavia) was held the same year in Novo Mesto in Slovenia. The team from Zagreb had already participated in two district contests, and the little experience was enough to take the title of the first republic champions, as well as participation in the federal contest. 
The second republic contest was held in Zagreb in 1959. Interestingly enough, it was held opposite the area of Zagreb Fair, where a new block Siget stands today. 
The 9th World Ploughing Contest held in Paris in 1961 saw the first competitor from Croatia, Mr. Ivan Karlovčan from Virovitica.
Before the establishment of the independent Republic of Croatia, republic contests were held in Slavonski Brod, Zagreb, Osijek (twice), Vinkovci, Virovitica, Našice, Čakovec, Županja (Bošnjaci), Nova Gradiška, Vrbovec, Poreč, Božjakovina, Ivanić Grad, Velika Gorica, Jastrebarsko, Klinča Selo, Mladina, Križevci, Zaprešić, Nova Kapela, Kutina and Belje. Out of 31 federal contests held in former Yugoslavia, five were held in Croatia – in Osijek (twice), Velika Gorica, Belje and Donji Miholjac.
The large number of settlements in which the contests were held shows the extent of the action and the interest of these areas to acknowledge the worker – ploughmen and value the work more. Once teams from the then agricultural facilities, which possessed the most modern mechanization, started participating in the contest and bringing competitors with stronger tractors and modern ploughs, the quality of the contest was improved.

In the second part of contest years numerous individuals marked the contest, not only by their participation over many years, but also by many acknowledgements won on all levels of the contest. Already in the second republic contest in 1959 the young Mr. Drago Škrljak from Zelina appeared, winning in the youth category, marking the beginning of a number of great successes by this young man. At the federal contest held in Osijek the next year, Drago and the young team from Croatia won the first prize. The following year, at the republic contest held in Vinkovci, Mr. Škrljac was again the best. In the same year, at the federal contest in Banja Luka, Drago and the young team from Croatia came in first. The scenario was the same in 1962, when the young man took the title of former Yugoslavia for the third time. Mr. Željko Odrčić from Velika Gorica continued the winning streak in 1963 by winning the federal contest held in Ćuprija.

At the end of the sixties, immigrants from Slavonia to Agrokombinat in Velika Gorica, brothers Nikola and Ivica Miler, came to scene. The brothers participated in the contests for over 20 years and were always either the best or just about. Nikola was 11 times republic champion, once the champion and 3 times the third in former Yugoslavia. Ivica won the republic contest 4 times, came in second 8 times and third once. In federal contests Ivica was once champion, once came in second and 3 times third. Nikola, although retired, cannot stay away from the tractor and cultivates approximately 20 ha of land. This year he participated in the county contest again and came in fifth.  

At the time there were other distinguished individuals who participated in the contest for many years and regularly took high positions. However, due to lack of access to official documents on contest, we cannot name all of them. From the memories of other participants, the following can be mentioned: Ivan Žigrović, Juraj Odrčić, Željko Odrčić, Stjepan Šafarić, Mirko Potočki, Antun Rašković, Vinko Babić, Tomislav Miklečić, Stjepan Adamović, Vlado Ferenčak, Ante Pejaković, Slavko Deneš, Zvonko Broz, Šimo Serezlija, Barica Ledinski, Mira Pavlović and others.
Many experts – enthusiasts, volunteers – participated in the organization and the implementation of the contest. These people never regretted the effort or the time invested in the organization of the contests for so long and as successfully. We remember Professor Josip Brčić, Professor Drago Komunjer, Professor Tomica Beštak, Professor Ivan Pirija, Professor Mile Čuljat, Professor Ivan Todorić, Professor Josip Barčić, Professor Nikola Jagar, Branko Puškadija, Ivan Sever, Ivan Primorac, Tvrtko Lešić, Ivo Vasilj, Nikola Kopić, Ivan Plazibat, Zvonko Vuk, Ante Peranović, Dragutin Oremović, Ivan Gašpar, Josip Bognar, Slavko Kostić, Šime Biloš, Vinko Jurčić, Smajo Gradaščević, Frano Ćale and others.

Following the independence of the Republic of Croatia, the first state ploughing contest was held in Rasinje in Koprivnica-Križevci County, on 22-24 September 1995. Twelve Croatian counties participated in the contest. The contest was held in line with the WPO ploughing rules with small modifications, as it was impossible to apply all provisions of the WPO ploughing rules. The competitors who took the first and the second place did not go to the world contest since Croatia was not a member of the World Ploughing Organization at the time.
In 2003 and 2004 ploughing contests were again organized in the Republic of Croatia.

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