Do you remember what farming used to look like? 

Eden Foundation will jog your memory with its annual tractor trek. 

For anyone unfamiliar with Eden’s beloved fundraising tradition, the event is simple and elegant — vintage tractors travel through the beautiful countryside of Southern Manitoba in support of a great cause. For tractor enthusiasts young and old, the trek is an opportunity to see the history of farming in action. 

Quinn Friesen, the events coordinator for Eden Foundation, and Jayme Giesbrecht, its director of development, are excited for the show.  

“The tractor trek is a huge event,” says Giesbrecht, who expects the trek to have a large turnout this year, just as it has in the past.  

For the 17th iteration of the event, Eden Foundation has made some changes to its cherished tradition.  

“This year's [trek] is going to be very new and different than we've had in previous years,” says Friesen. “We are doing a community barbecue . . . with Co-op, and we're going to do a Show & Shine with that. All the tractors [will] be on display, [and] everyone from the community can come out, look at the tractors, have some of the barbecue, and then we'll start the trek with our opening ceremonies.” 

This year’s trek will be shorter than it has been previous years, but there will still be approximately 20 kilometres of trekking to enjoy.  

“[W]e shortened [the trek] this year because we wanted to see if we could draw in tractor trekkers from outside of the community,” says Giesbrecht. “We know there has been interest further away, but when we start so early, it's harder for them to get here for the start of the day.” 

Giesbrecht and Friesen say that this year, in addition to Winkler and surrounding areas, tractors will come from McCreary, Domain, Steinbach, Winnipeg, and even as far as Texas.

“People are coming from all over, and [it excites us] to know that people want to be a part of the trek,” says Friesen. “Hopefully [the length change] draws in more and more [trekkers] over the years.” 

Friesen notes that the change to the length of the trek is not necessarily permanent.  

“If it goes really well, we might continue with it. If it doesn't, then we'll probably transition back,” she says.  

The changes will not alter the enduring reputation or the atmosphere of Eden’s tractor trek.  

“We want to honor the tradition, but we want to make sure that we can expand it for years to come and invite younger generations to participate as well,” Giesbrecht says.  

As for the route, the tractors will go for a scenic ride through the countryside.  

“We[‘ll] go down to Chortitz and then over and up to the Threshermen’s Museum, where the trekkers will be very lucky to have fresh apple pie and ice cream,” says Friesen. “Then, we'll head back to [Emmanuel Mennonite Church] and . . . we do a banquet every year for the trekkers to thank them.” 

Eden’s tractor trek is an important fundraising event for the foundation that provides services to Winkler, Steinbach, and even Winnipeg.  

“We actually rely on the trekkers to raise the funds, so they get pledge sheets, and they head out into the community and tap the shoulders of their business contacts, friends, and family,” says Giesbrecht. “Some of the trekkers fundraise thousands of dollars, and others who aren't as comfortable asking for donations will pay the $150 registration fee.” 

For Giesbrecht, every bit of fundraising that the trekkers do is helpful.  

“We appreciate all of them in fundraising. We often say, ‘every dollar counts,' and that seems like kind of a clichéd thing to say, but it really makes a difference when we're tallying up the numbers.” 

Giesbrecht says that corporate sponsors also help cover the cost of the trek, which ensures that all the monies raised go directly to programs at Eden. In Winkler alone, there are five community-enriching programs at Eden: Segue Career Options employment services, Recovery of Hope counseling services, Eden Mental Health Centre, Eden Housing & Supports, and Pathways Community Mental Health Services.  

“[Through] donations, you can help people find employment, housing, and peace of mind. ‘Hope, healing, and community,’ as we say at Eden.” 

The tractor trek always resounds deeply.  

“I think one of the biggest things that people love so much about the tractor trek is that it . . . bring[s] a sense of community. It originally started [with trekkers] visiting the villages,” says Friesen. “It was just essentially . . . saying ‘thank you for giving to Eden and supporting all the programs.’” 

Friesen hopes that the new additions to the 2024 tractor trek will allow for even more community engagement. 

“By doing the barbecue and the Show & Shine, we really want to bring the community to be a part of what's happening, and not just thanking them, but also showing them more about what the event is about and [allowing them to] really be a part of more fundraising.” 

Against this backdrop of fostering community services through Eden, the tractor trek is also an entertaining event that allows the trekkers to show off some of their impressive pieces of history. They even have a chance to be rewarded for it.  

“We know that [the trekkers] put a lot of work into these machines,” says Giesbrecht. “We have judges that follow the trek throughout the day and will give out awards at the trekkers’ banquet.”  

Giesbrecht says that some of the categories for the awards include Best Unrestored Tractor, Best Restored Tractor, and Smoothest Running Tractor. The awards add to the day’s fun for those who have lent their support to Eden Foundation.  

The tractor trek also tends to appeal to younger audiences with budding interest in farming equipment.  

“This year, for the community barbecue, we're hoping that . . . we see . . . families and little kids have the opportunity to see vintage farm equipment up close,” says Giesbrecht. “Very often, the trekkers will allow a child to sit on their tractor for a picture, . . . and it's a nice memory for the family.” 

According to Giesbrecht, the tractor trek is an opportunity to embrace the legacy of local farming in the area.  

“We want to highlight these machines that the trekkers bring in and let the community see [them],” she says. “We come from such an agricultural area of the world, and seeing where we've come from and how far we've come with tractors is actually quite impressive.” 

Eden’s tractor trek begins at 11 a.m. at Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Winkler on July 13th. The community barbecue, which is by donation, runs from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. during the tractor Show & Shine. Following the opening ceremonies from 1:00 p.m. until 1:30 p.m., the trek makes its departure with the Winkler police leading its way. 

The changes to this year’s tractor trek are sure to enhance the experience for everyone involved. 

To donate to Eden Health Care Services, click here.  

~With files from Connie Bailey~