A challenge to tradition: co-operative farming in Saskatchewan, 1994-1960
McGrath, Dion Gerald
This thesis is the study of the development of co-operative farming in Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1960. Farmers attempted co-operative farming for a variety of reasons: costs of mechanization, technology, economic conditions, or the need to become established in farming. The motives differed among the participants, however, they all sought an alternative to traditional farming methods, and were eager to attempt a new method that would have them consolidate their land, labor, capital, and in most cases, their homes. Most co-operative farmers not only worked together they also lived together on one farm site. This thesis is an analysis of the experiences of co-operative farms and there members. The election in Saskatchewan of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in 1944 aided in the development of the program. The CCF government actively encouraged and promoted the organization of co-operative farms, at first as a measure to rehabilitate returning veterans on the land, but also as an option for existing farmers as a solution to some of the practical problems they were facing. Acting as a consolidating body for organizations and individuals interested in co-operative farming, the government provided land, monetary assistance, and education for many of the farms. However, it was soon realized that the agricultural system was not set up or maintained in the interests of cooperative farms. Rather, the existing system was designed to accommodate only individual family farms. Co-operative farms had difficulty fitting in to the established agricultural system. They faced many legal roadblocks that impeded their development and forced many to dissolve. In addition to the legal difficulties, there was also the social perception of what a farmer was supposed to be, an individual. Many members of co-operative farms could not overcome that perception and work within a group on a democratic basis. The farms that were able to work through the many difficulties they faced, demonstrated that co-operative farming could work successfully even in an environment that was dominated by the family farm. Though most co-operative farms lasted only a few years, their experience suggests that co-op farming could be economically and socially viable given the appropriate political, economic, and social conditions- and could succeed under unfavorable conditions if the members were sufficiently committed.