Farmers made up the largest group in the Prairies. Most farms were small in 1905. And since most colonists had not been settled for very long, their homes were often modest: just a wood frame covered with clumps of grass (yes, you read that right, clumps of grass!). After all, remember that trees are scarce on the prairie. These clumps formed a strong material somewhat like bricks, but they attracted insects and didn’t protect from the rain very well.
When farmers settled on their homestead, they first had to clear the land. Those who lived further north had to clear the forest, but on the prairie there were no trees to cut down. But they still had to clear the land. And don’t think this was any easier, even with a steel plough; grassland is very hard. Farmers also had to buy animals: horses, oxen, cows, pigs, some sheep and chickens.
The first years were often difficult, but over time their situation gradually improved: farmers were eventually able to build more solid houses and buy farm machinery like a plough and a reaper-binder. They could also buy neighbouring lands and farm a larger area. However, farmers lived in constant fear of natural disasters. A fire, drought, Chinook wind – in summer or winter – frost or hail could destroy an entire crop.
By 1905, more and more farmers wanted to get organized into cooperatives. In 1906, the Grain Growers’ Grain Company was founded. It allowed farmers to have more control over the sale of their wheat. A newspaper for farmers was founded in 1908: the Grain Growers’ Guide, which became the voice of Prairie farmers. In Québec, cooperatives were also being founded at this time: the Caisses populaires Desjardins
Author: Service national du Récit de l’univers social
French if available (si disponible)