Canadian Agriculture – From Food Crops to Ranching and Dairying

Agriculture is generally regarded as the truest basis of national prosperity, and while we have said that Canada is pre-eminent in her possession of other resources, that of agriculture must ever remain the greatest of all. Nature has made ample provision for the operation of agriculture on the largest and most profitable scale within our borders. In no department of human activity are there such opportunities for national wealth as in the tilling of the soil. The tillers of the soil constitute in all great countries the backbone of the nation’s prosperity and progress.

Canada’s importance as an agricultural country has been much misunderstood abroad, and sometimes at home. Misconceptions concerning our climate have prejudiced the minds of foreigners, while lumbering, mining or fishing has frequently engaged the attention of the native Canadian to the detriment of agriculture as well as his own prosperity. In this important matter, however, Canadians and others are beginning to discern the wonderful possibilities of the country in this the most ancient, most honorable, and probably the most profitable of all pursuits.

In this connection it is a hopeful augury to find the great bulk of foreigners who are now coming to our country seeking homes upon the land as tillers of the soil. This is what we and they need, and is in marked contrast with the United States, where they flock to the great centres of population. It is to be hoped that this condition with respect to the incoming stranger will long continue.

It will be noticed that the variety of agricultural products for a supposedly northern climate are of considerable number. This is a most pleasing feature made possible by the great extent of the country, and the wide diversity of climate by which it is characterized. Agriculture is becoming more and more specialized and adapted to the prevailing conditions.

Applying this to Canada, it might in a general way be said that from Ontario eastward, including the Maritime Provinces, the country is naturally best adapted to dairying, mixed farming and fruit raising. Through the central portion, comprising the western prairies, we have essentially a grain growing and grazing country, though mixed farming is also profitable. The northern regions when populated must be regarded as a dairying and mixed farming country ; the same is also true of British Columbia, though fruit does well in southern sections. The reader will not here be troubled with statistics ; they are too extensive even to be interesting, suffice it to say that the grain crop of the Dominion now amounts to more than 100,000,000 bushels. The surplus for export alone amounts to more than 50,000,000 bushels from Manitoba and the North-West. It may here be stated that Canada is now producing as much wheat as was produced by the United States between the years 183040, when their population was three times that of the Dominion.

However great the value of Canada’s past agricultural products, and however gratifying it may be to have the leading place that this industry is taking in this new country, it does not, of itself, throw much light on the possible agricultural resources of the country. That is not only another, but it is a much larger story, not so easily told. Perhaps it will help us to understand this if we apply a mathematical comparison. For instance, Canada has in round numbers some 2,000,000 square miles within the northern limit of the wheat belt. Of course, a certain percentage of this must be deducted for waste land, but it is likely that the amount of good land suitable for the growth of wheat is quite as great as in any other territory of similar size. It only needs a little mental calculation to indicate the vastness of her possible yield of wheat. She has certainly been appropriately referred to as “the bread-basket of the British Empire.”

” It so happens that north of the international boundary and within the Canadian territories the wheat area possesses all the advantages of the regions of the south, but in richness, fertility and extent is infinitely greater. It would be a startling statement to make, as showing the advantages of the much derided Canadian climate, that in its extreme northern latitudes the Dominion possesses a greater wheat producing area than does the United States that the soil of this wheat area is richer and will last longer, and will produce a higher average of better wheat than can be produced anywhere else on the continent, if not in the world. Manitoba No. 1 hard is, perhaps, the best wheat grown anywhere in the world. It averages a yield of twenty-five bushels to the acre, as compared with twelve and fourteen on the adjoining sections of the American Union.

“Canada already, strange as it may seem to many, figures very largely as a fruit-producing country, and horticulture is engaging the attention of agriculturists in a constantly increasing degree. – The Maritime Provinces, Southern Ontario and Southern British Columbia are especially adapted to this industry. The best apples in the world are grown in Canada, and in the Niagara Peninsula and the Okanagan District of British Columbia grapes and peaches are grown on a scale equal to any part of the continent. The results of the judging in the Horticultural Department at the Pan-American Exhibition, which were received by the Department of Agriculture, constitute a victory for Canada over all others. No less than twenty gold medals, thirty-two silver medals, thirty-eighty bronze medals and eighty honorable mentions come to Ontario. Some of the notable victories won were gold medals on honey, on general excellence of all the fruits shown ; two on cold storage apples of 1900, taken out on August 17th, 1901, ninety-seven per cent sound ; also silver medal for installation of exhibit ; a similar medal being awarded to California. It is notable that Florida, California, Delaware and other notable fruit-producing states stand away down the list in their total awards when compared with Ontario.”

No better ranching country is to be found on the continent, or, for that matter, in the world, than exists in Alberta, and this industry has assumed gigantic proportions in recent years, and is capable of great expansion.

Everything points to the fact that Canada has a preeminent place among the great food-producing nations of the globe, and situated as she is, between the teeming millions of Europe and those of more ancient Asia, she is in a position to cater more easily than any other country to the needs of both, for both continents now demand more than they create, and even the United States must probably within half a century cease to be a food exporting country. It may be that Providence has designed that this country is to be a sort of modern Egypt, to which the nations of the world will come to buy in time of need. The fact that there is raised in Canada, in ordinary seasons, seventy-five percent more wheat, oats and barley per head than in the United States, is an indication of her ability to meet all demands made upon her.