Looking Back


How Grain Farming has Changed!


Onoway Historical Guild's threshing bee is coming up soon. Browsing through exhibits in the Farm Room and in the archives at the Onoway Museum makes one marvel at how mechanized agriculture has become.

In Alberta's early days, the farmer who could afford to purchase a threshing machine had a gold mine! He (plus the threshing crew) hauled the thresher from farm to farm to enable less fortunate farmers to harvest their crops. They could be on the road for weeks on end but of course they were paid. Some threshermen even wrote out formal invoices. Later, the business aspect was formalized and proper invoice books were issued with the support of the government. The thresher was entitled to a "lien" against the harvested crop in the event that he was not paid his wages.

Threshing Statement 1941

Threshing Statement 1941

It cost Ted Looker $43.58 in 1941 to have his crops threshed.
The price per bushel harvested varied with the type of grain.

Threshing Bills

Charlie Meyer charged Ted Looker for his labour
but held a lien on the grain harvested in case Looker did not pay him.

As the range of agricultural equipment increased and local dealers promoted the different makes, companies like International Harvester created magazines which would be mailed to potential customers. These magazines give intriguing insights into all aspects of farm life and how advances in the mechanics were changing agriculture so rapidly. The 1941 edition of Canadian Tractor Farming (see photo) mailed to Alex Shabada at Gunn does not include information about the local dealer. But John Lafleur had the International Harvester dealership for the Onoway area and the Shabadas were on his mailing list. By 1958 the magazine had incorporated a red panel on the back cover identifying the dealer: "J. Lafleur, Phone 2, Onoway, Alta."

Another promotional giveaway was John Deere's Farmer's Pocket Notebook. John A. Mills was the dealer in Onoway; in 1954 he could be contacted by phone at #10 in Onoway.

Today, in the comfort of an air-conditioned cab, with a computer guiding the harvesting process, the modern farmer need only be concerned about the weather, the price his crop would garner and whether he could make payments on his machinery. Some things never change.

Canadian Tractor Farming
Canadian Tractor Farming was devoted exclusively to farming with tractors and included features on all aspects of farming. This 1948 issue noted that grain combines now harvest more than 75% of the wheat acreage and about 40% of oats. "Self-propelled combines have caught on with farmers in a most surprising manner."

Farmer's Pocket Notebook was filled cover to cover with every piece of information a farmer might need to know ranging from barbed wire fencing specifications to land measure (an acre contains 4,840 square yards), from interest rates to how far apart to plant raspberry bushes.


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Last updated: January 25, 2019