MILLVILLE, Pa. — For Luke Vastine of Spruce Run Farm, caring for and using draft horses on the farm is a household custom that spans 11 generations. The Vastine household, whose identify was initially Van De Woestyne, emigrated from the Netherlands after which settled in southeastern Pennsylvania, in keeping with an article written for Small Farmers Journal. A number of generations in the past, the household moved to central Pennsylvania, bringing with them a ardour for draft horses.
Luke Vastine has been a senior credit score analyst workforce chief at First Residents Neighborhood Financial institution for 5 years, after working with AgChoice Farm Credit score for greater than a dozen years. His enterprise acumen and agricultural information have served him nicely in managing the household farm beneath the mentorship of his father, George Vastine.
In response to the Pennsylvania Draft Horse and Mule Affiliation, “Draft horses and mules have been instrumental within the transportation of products and the farming of crops. With the innovation of gasoline-powered gear, the variety of draft horses dropped quickly, nearly to extinction. Thankfully, draft horse fans have reversed this development. At the moment, the draft horse and mule trade has skilled dramatic development in reputation.”
Draft horses are often known as “light giants” for his or her calm temperament. Vastine says his horses, two Belgians and two Clydesdales, have distinctive personalities, every with its personal talents and challenges. He makes use of the horses on his household’s 24-acre farm, which incorporates 10 acres of hay and 1 acre of corn, in addition to pastures. The draft horses’ means to plow, plant and harvest makes them a utilitarian and vital a part of the small operation. Through the years, the Vastines have made the acutely aware resolution to purchase foals, relatively than breed them.
The draft horses’ docile perspective and trainability have sparked a singular facet enterprise for the household — utilizing the horses for carriages and wagon rides year-round in addition to sled rides within the winter. Vastine’s horses have appeared in native parades, festivals and agricultural festivals, in addition to at weddings, funerals and different milestones. He can have his horses at Winterfest this 12 months, held on the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds in November. The groups will even take part within the winter festivities organized by the Danville Enterprise Alliance going down on 4 weekends in November and December. Carriage and wagon rides are usually $5 per individual.
Vastine’s first pair of Belgians was bought in Harrisburg 25 years in the past. When he took them to occasions, folks all the time thought they have been Clydesdales, so he determined so as to add a pair of Clydesdales to his farm operations.
Vastine has a choice for buying Budweiser Clydesdales, owned by the Anheuser-Busch firm, due to their distinctive high quality requirements. He usually buys off-colored Clydesdales or horses that received’t be hitched for quite a lot of causes, however “all of them undergo the identical rigorous coaching program,” he says.
Coaching is paramount, particularly for Vastine, who additionally makes use of the horses in competitions. Vastine was a two-time champion in Pennsylvania’s plowing competitors within the early 2000s and has additionally competed nationally on the North American Belgian Championships and the Nationwide Horse Plow Championships.
Vastine has acquired appreciable prowess in utilizing a strolling plow, significantly in creating straight rows and furrows. He has additionally competed within the Howell Dwelling Historical past Farm’s Strolling Plowing Competitors in Titusville, New Jersey, which takes place in September.
Along with plowing championships, Vastine is devoted to educating others about this misplaced artwork. A number of years in the past, he volunteered his time for the Pennsylvania Draft Horse and Mule Affiliation’s plowing clinics. Attendees are taught primary sound practices of plowing, and dealing with draft horses and mules on the strolling and sulky plow. Academic subjects there usually embody hitching to the plow, plow adjustment and the qualities of fine plowing.
One of many challenges of the breeds is the hair on their legs and ft, which might result in foot funguses and bug points. Wet and muddy situations can shortly turn into an issue, so mud is eliminated every day from the horses’ hooves. If left to themselves, the horses can flip a small irritation into one that’s rubbed uncooked, generally recognized within the horse neighborhood as “scratches,” or pastern dermatitis or pastern folliculitis, in keeping with vets.
“Dry summers aren’t very best for the farm, but it surely’s very best for the horses,” Vastine mentioned.
This 12 months’s moist summer time has been a little bit of an ongoing problem for the horses. Vastine rotates them between the pasture and the barn as a preventative measure and to maintain them cool, he mentioned.
It’s clear that Luke’s father, George, is pleased with the legacy that he and his son have fostered collectively over time.
In response to George Vastine, Luke is “sustaining a wealthy heritage in American agriculture — that heritage of dedication to the standard use of horse energy that served our household, even from the primary ancestor that emigrated from Europe — with the intent of farming his personal land.”
He provides, “Fortunately, Luke has had many effective position fashions, deceased and residing, who’ve saved that legacy alive.”
For extra details about Spruce Run Farm and future wagon rides, go to their Fb web page at Fb.com/SpruceRunFarmPA or at 570-441-3802.