Anita Geysens reunited with two 'old' teammates last Wednesday to win the tobacco tying competition at the 2016 Langton Fall Fair.
Geysens, Rosann Smith and Jean Donck hand-tied two slats of tobacco in one minute and eight seconds (1:08), edging second-place Annie Van Louwe, Marg Andries and Janet Barrett by five seconds (1:13) - a difference of maybe four or five 'hands' of leaves (three leaves per hand). Richard VanDeWiele, Anne Kershaw and Ester Sinnesael placed third.
"This is our sixth or seventh year together," said Smith, noting they first teamed up in 2009.
"Our seventh year," Donck nodded, who along with Smith had been temporarily replaced in 2015 because she had an eye appointment.
"Oh my, Anita, we're old," Smith laughed.
During that span, Geysens and teammates finished first five times and second twice. But the competition in Langton is good, and Wednesday was no exception. Geysens said she didn't expect to win in 2016.
"No, because I have tendonitis," she admitted.
"We didn't think we'd win this year," Donck agreed.
"Because we're all ill," Smith nodded. "I've got a bad back."
"And I've got a bad shoulder," said Donck. "I'm glad we had the low pile because I've had trouble with my arm."
"You too, eh?" Smith laughed. "Oh well, it's always fun though."
In 2014 Geysens, Smith and Donck had won their fourth consecutive title with a time of 1:09, which means they are not slowing down, despite injuries.
"It's experience over the years," said Smith. "We've been doing this since we were kids. It's experience - we've still got it girls."
"It is experience," Geysens nodded.
"We were raised on tobacco farms, that makes a difference," said Smith.
"It's funny how you never forget, eh?" Donck smiled.
"Just like riding a bicycle," said Geysens.
The art of hand tying tobacco - before automated tying machines took over in the 1960s - is a skill that is slowly disappearing.. but not gone. There were three teams this year, four teams last year, and as many as seven in 2009.
"It is a dying art, period," said Donck.
"It does seems to be dwindling," said Smith.
"The young people don't want to do it," said Geysens.
"They don't know how to do it," Smith noted.
Roger Geysens, who substituted as a hander on the team last year, said this year's tobacco crop will be a good one.
"It's going to be a late season, I see the harvest probably continuing until late October in some cases. Some will be done probably by the end of September or a week into October. Some longer. There's a lot of fields out there holding a lot of tobacco. Some farmers have a solid set of irrigation to ward off the frost so that will help somewhat.
"It was the heat," he added. "When it gets to be 30 degrees (C), the tobacco decides 'I'm not going to do anything, I'm just going to survive.' And when you get a dry year like this year, they're putting roots down deeper than they did last year. I've never seen tips, from one plant to another plant, actually touch. And they're planting 42 inches apart - we used to plant 40 inches apart."