How have urban and rural communities in Alberta changed?

How many farms in Alberta are family owned?


Read CITIES AND FARMS to learn more about the growing connection between Alberta communities and farms.

Complete the activities in USE ARTIFACTS TO ASSESS CHANGE.


Read THE FACE OF PROGRESS to find out more about changes in farm and farming statistics.

Complete the activities in EVALUATE EVIDENCE OF CHANGE.


from farms to cities

Rural and farm life has always been important to the development of Alberta. However, the ways that crops were grown and animals were raised for food has changed dramatically. Dairy farming is an example.

Milking machines were invented in the late 1800s. These machines made it possible for farmers to milk their cows faster and produce more milk. It took farmers about ten minutes to milk a cow by hand. Each cow had to be milked at least twice daily.

However, many farms did not use milking machines until the mid 1900s. These farmers needed farmhands to help milk the cows.

Farm families were able to bottle and deliver milk only to customers or dairies near their farms. There was no refrigeration or transportation during this time that could keep the milk cold. This resulted in the growth of many small dairies and creameries that processed the milk they got from local farmers to supply nearby communities. Horses, wagons and trains were used to transport this milk.

In the early to mid 1900s, dairies, creameries and cheese factories were found in many Alberta communities, including Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Innisfail, Wetaskiwan, Camrose, Daysland, Hay Lakes, Leduc, Millet, Bonnyville, Onoway, St. Paul, Vegriville, Westlock and many others.

Why do you think there were more and smaller farms in the early 1900s than there are today in Alberta?


This photo shows a farmer hauling milk to the train station in the Carstairs area about 1917.

Glenbow Archives  NA-4182-6

This photo shows the interior of a dairy in Edmonton around 1913.

Glenbow Archives NA-1328-1739



This photo shows a cow hooked up to a milking machine on a dairy farm near Red Deer in 1961.

Glenbow Archives NA-4476-1299

changing times

The world wars took farmhands away from the farms. However, the demand for dairy foods during the war years greatly increased. There were fewer farmhands available to make these foods.

During this time, farmers started to use more machinery. On dairy farms, the use of machinery meant that more cows could be milked in a day by fewer farmhands. More cows meant that more milk could be produced. Therefore, the average number of cows on dairy farms increased.

The invention of the bulk milk tank also had an impact on the size and number of dairy farms. These tanks were refrigerated. They allowed the milk to be transported greater distances. Milk cans were no longer used to move milk. This gave dairy farmers more markets that could be further away for their milk.

Today, milk is picked up from farms by refrigerated trucks every second day. Milk is inspected, tested and measured before it is loaded on the trucks. The milk is sent to dairy processors to be made into dairy products. These products are sold all over Alberta, Canada and the world.

How do you think farm machinery affected other types of farming and agricultural products? Why do you think this?