On what type of land are most dairy farms found?
Read GROWING FARMS AND COMMUNITIES to find out more about the growth of homesteads on the prairies.
Complete the activities in USE PRIMARY SOURCES TO EXPLORE COMMUNITY SETTLEMENT.
Read TRAINS, TOWNS AND AGRICULTURE to find out more about the influence of railways on settlement.
Complete the activities in USE PHOTOS TO EXPLORE THE PAST.
growth of agriculture
Agriculture grew quickly in Alberta to become an important industry. Ranchers moved into the grasslands and foothills in the late 1800s. The chinook winds helped make grazing possible almost year-round for cattle.
First Nations helped settlers who arrived to start homesteads. They learned from each other. First Nations provided settlers with the knowledge of the land. The Plains people knew the vegetation, rainfall and frost patterns, water sources and plants, roots, berries and herbs.
An early homestead was often made of logs, with a dirt floor covered by planks. Homesteaders developed farming practices that helped them cope with the prairie weather, especially drought and early frost. They learned to use new equipment to harvest crops. Settlers depended on their neighbours to survive.
Source: History of agriculture in Strathcona County: Early farming. www.strathcona.ca/files/files/rpc-history-of-agriculture-early-farming.pdf
This photo shows an Alberta homestead near Calgary in the late 1800s.
Glenbow Archives 8375-11-2
This photo shows a railway station in northern Alberta, sometime in the late 1800s.
City of Edmonton Archives 10-2066-141
bringing farmers to the prairies
In 1870, no urban centres existed on the prairies. By 1911, thirteen cities with populations over 5,000 had been established. Railroads were important for this growth.
Railroads were built to Medicine Hat and Calgary in 1882, to Lethbridge in 1885 and to Edmonton in 1891. The railroad brought settlers to the prairies.
Early homesteaders relied on wheat as their main crop. Mixed farms also became common. These farmers raised livestock and grew crops. Some farmers raised different types of livestock, including beef and dairy cattle, pigs, chickens, lambs and perhaps some horses. Coyotes and wolves were a major problem in early days as they preyed on livestock.