The Future of Agriculture in Alberta
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 6 May 1920, p. 247-258

Marshall, Hon. Duncan McLean, Speaker
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Item Type:
The future of agriculture in Canada. The increased interest in agriculture today among business men and industrial men. The interest in developing and improving agriculture in Canada. Some words with reference to the speaker's own province, Alberta. Stories respecting the difficulties during the past winter, some of them exaggerated. The future of agriculture in any country today dependent largely upon the men employed and engaged in it. The need to keep the boys on the farm, with suggestions for doing so. The need for facilities for education in agriculture. Farming as the one industry that encourages a man for its direct benefits and should attract men of intelligence. The need to be competent and progressive if the future of agriculture in Canada is to be what we want it to be. The need for scientific training in live-stock breeding. Getting the boy born on the farm to stay there. How the government can help. The rearing of good healthy live-stock as the foundation stone of good agriculture. The importance of the cattle market.
Date of Original:
6 May 1920
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Full Text
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
Thursday, May 6, 1920

THE PRESIDENT, in introducing Hon. Mr. Marshall, said, Gentlemen, We are hearing just now much about increased production and the back to the land movement; in fact, these are topics of paramount importance today. Now I want to say that 'the man in the bast who has no interest in the West is not much good to the East. We are hearing much these days about a United Empire, but that must necessarily stand also for a United Canada. When any part of our great country

is in need of help or sympathy, we expect to give it, and when we hear of its success, we feel that it is our business to congratulate that part of Canada; in other words we want to be one whole from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and not a divided country. (Applause) If you want to know something about the West, go to

one who knows the West, and not to a man who thinks he knows. We have a man here today who knows the West and is going to talk on the subject of agriculture.

That reminds me of a story, which, although some of you may have heard it before, I am going to relate. A mule and an ox were united for the purpose of doing some work on the farm. After a little while the mule lay down. The farmer came along and put it in the barn. The next day the ox asked the mule what the

farmer had said to him. "Nothing," replied the mule. The next day, the ox lay down and the farmer came and took him away. That night the mule asked the ox what the farmer had said to him. "He didn't say anything." replied the ox, "but the last I saw of him he was talking to the butcher." (Laughter)

Well, Gentlemen, what is wanted today is increased production and, perhaps, also a little more economy. Greater production, as everybody has been telling us, is what we want, and I have great pleasure in introducing to you a man who is the Minister of Agriculture for Alberta, who I have no doubt will have something of vital importance and interest to tell us. (Applause)


Mr. President and Gentlemen, in the first place I am not sure whether I ought not to congratulate this organization on the kind of secretary it has. I may say that he is the most persistent man that has been on my trail for some time. (Laughter) He has been wiring me for the last sixty days to come and speak to you, when he might have been sending wires to hire a good speaker. I may say, because of the fact that I am Scotch, I replied to them all "collect." (Laughter) He asked me to indicate what I should talk about, and I suggested that I should talk about the future of agriculture in Alberta. When I got down here, he persuaded me to talk about the "Future of Agriculture in Canada" just a matter of extending the subject a little. Now, anything relating to the future is a matter of prophesy, and if you do not agree with what is said, then do not blame me.

Now, the few remarks which I am going to make tonight have a bearing on the whole of Canada. This is a good province in which to speak on the subject of agriculture at the present time, as you have a real farmers' government in power in the province of Ontario, and I am very pleased indeed to have beside me Mr. Doherty, the Minister of Agriculture of Ontario. (Applause) I have been on Mr. Doherty's farm before he was Minister of Agriculture, and if he handles his department as well as his own live stock business, I have no fear as to its administration during the next few years. This party, I believe, is known as the United Farmers, and I notice a great deal of deference towards it. Even your chairman, instead of saying that the mule was hitched 'to an ox, said that the mule and the ox were united. (Applause) -I do not just know how I will get along with a gathering of this kind-a meeting of the Empire Club. I don't know that I am in quite as happy a frame of mind in addressing a gathering of this sort as I would be in the schools out in the country, talking to people who are vitally interested in the business. I am somewhat in the position of an Englishman who had a small part in a show of some kind. He was acting the part of some historical character and was sitting in a passage which was very badly illuminated. An old lady who saw him remarked, "Are you Appius Claudius ?"No", he replied, "I am as un'appy as 'ell." (Laughter)

Well, Gentlemen, this is a time when everyone is taking more and more interest in agriculture than ever before. There is more interest taken in agriculture to--day among business men and industrial men, not only on this continent but all over the world. We have just come through a period when the importance and value of agriculture have been brought very prominently before us, with the result that nearly everybody is talking today about ways and means of developing and improving agriculture in our country.

May I just say a few words with reference to my own province? You have heard some stories respecting the difficulties we have had during the past winter. Some of the stories have been exaggerated; in many cases I am sorry to say they have not. There were cases reported in the newspapers of farmers shooting their cattle, and shooting themselves, and nonsense of that kind. I took the trouble to make an examination of some of these localities to find out if anyone had resorted to such extreme measures, and in every case I found that it was just a yarn. Of course, there is no getting away from the fact that we have had about seven months of winter this year, an extremely long winter for the province of Alberta, and there was a great shortage of food. However, there was not a week during the winter but that prices were good. It is true that the live stock population was decreased during the winter by one third, but this was not through death, but by sale. The farmers of Alberta are now firmly convinced that cattle raising is the safest kind of agriculture, and what is made through the crops this year will be re-invested in live stock of a superior grade. Despite the winter, conditions are such in Alberta that there will be more progress in a month or six weeks this year, than there was in twice that period last year. There is more moisture in the ground than there has been for fifteen years. As I said, we have had a very difficult winter, and the conditions in our spring are somewhat similar to what has been here. Put if we have had a difficult winter, we had only to face the hardships that pioneers have to face. It seems to me that it is necessary for pioneers to face these hardships in order to make them fit to live in their new environment. I believe the people who settle in a country and fight the battles incidental to pioneering, produce in the next generation the best class of people that can be met anywhere. It seems to me that the future of agriculture in any country today depends largely upon the men employed and engaged in it. At the present time everyone is interested in agriculture, whether he ploughs or not. Every business man and everyone in industrial life throughout the country is watching the development of agriculture.

We must keep the boys on the farm. I haven't much faith in the back-to-the-land movement, as city life spoils men for farming. We must make every effort to get the boys born on the farms to stay on the farms, and to do this we must have the very best facilities for the best education in agriculture. The theoretical part is all right, but no one should be allowed to teach in an agricultural college who has not been able to get a living on a farm; The young people must get the right viewpoint and see the possibilities rather than be allowed to think that they are condemned to the life. We must make it possible for the boys and girls to stay on the farm, and impossible for them to leave. The farmer's child, who knows live stock and can judge it, is the one who gets the most pleasure out of life. Nothing has done so much for live stock in Canada as the Ontario Agricultural College classes in stock-judging. (Applause) If you ask me what are we going to do with our boys, I say there is only one answer to that question-encourage them to stay on the farm. In our province today a great part of it will not be seeded, because men cannot be secured to work on the farms. I think it is a great pity that today, when there are so many organizations of various kinds, there is not one which will hold out any inducements to our boys to remain on the farm. After all, it is a fine thing to have a business in which a man can take pleasure in life, and the place where a man should get the most pleasure out of life is the home. There ought to be greater inducement offered to keep men of intelligence and men of ability, men who were born on the farm, to stay there and earn their livelihood, where they can find satisfaction and enjoyment in the business in which they are engaged. (Applause) If the future of agriculture in Canada is to be what it ought to be, it has got to be encouraged.

The future of live stock in our country depends on getting the very best kind of men available. There is only one way to accomplish that result, and that is through the training and encouragement of our boys and girls who are on the farms. You know we are passing through strenuous days, when there are all kinds of organizations formed for raising wages and prices, and the big problem is to develop one industry where the manager is the hired man, and where he pays himself the wages he thinks necessary. The farmer is the one man who is going to escape the One Big Union. (Applause) The most important factor is to raise boys and girls on the farm and keep them there. If we do this, we shall reach a state of independence. Quit "hollering" for greater production; hire or rent a farm and grow something yourself. (Applause) If we are going to have greater production in the future than we have had in the past, we have not only to grow boys on the farm but keep them there. You hear a lot of people talk about going on the land, but I am afraid that some of them only want their back to the land. (Laughter) It is the easiest thing in the world to go back to the land; all you have to do is to go out into the country, and the farmers will receive you with open arms.

In these days when there are so many organizations whose aims are to destroy individuality we should be thankful that there is one that encourages individual effort. Farming is the one industry that encourages a man for its direct benefits, and it should attract men of intelligence as one in which they can get a living and at the same time receive the maximum of enjoyment and pleasure. There is always a higher goal to he reached. If the future of agriculture in Canada is to be what we want it to be, we must be competent and progressive. (Applause) Our live-stock breeding, which is the backbone of agriculture, must keep abreast of that of other countries, and to do this we must have scientific training for the boys and girls on the farm. Other children get education, but the children of the rural districts are- too far from the scenes of learning to get sufficient to make them appreciate the advantages of life on the farm.

I was with a man one day when he had three men at work on his farm. If I was to tell you the wages he offered them, you would all start for the west tomorrow. He gave them some money and told them to meet him at the station that night. When he got there, they were nowhere to be found. Gentlemen, the hope of agriculture rests largely, if not almost entirely, on the boys and girls residing on the land, and it is up to us to get them to remain there. It is true that occasionally we, rescue some boys from the city who acquire a taste for the country, but the future of agriculture largely depends on getting the boy born on the farm to stay there, getting them to understand that the glare and the glitter of the cities are not all that they imagine them to be, and getting them to understand and appreciate more- of the possibilities and advantages of farming. They should receive more of an agricultural education. Agricultural education does not mean fitting a man to leave the land; that has been the result of that kind of education in too many instances. In England, and indeed all over the world, the people are just awakening to the value of an agricultural education today, and particularly in that branch relating to the breeding of live-stock. The raising of live-stock is a very scientific business. You can go through this province, or any part of Canada, and in some places you will find two or three men breeding good live-stock. Then, for some reason or other, on the next farm you will see the most miserable kind of scrubs you could possibly meet. You will find instances of that kind wherever you go.

While the future of agriculture depends largely on the men, the government can help by offering the boys and girls of the farms the very best and most scientific training. The great problem after all amounts to this what are we to do in this country to make it not only possible for the boys to stay on the farms, but impossible for them to leave the farm? That resolves itself into the question of education. You must instill into the minds of the boys, by scientific training in the method of breeding live-stock, that here is an occupation at once interesting and profitable. I would suggest that means be afforded to these boys to visit different farms all over the province so that they may see what is being done in the way of breeding live-stock. If this were done, the boys would then get a wider knowledge and an incentive "$o go ahead and produce the very best kind of live-stock. I once visited a man whose land was supposed to grow nothing but stones, but I should like you to see that man's stables. He certainly knew how to keep his live-stock in good shape. His cattle at all times were fit for the market or show, and he kept his stables so clean that you would almost as soon live in them as in the house. That man knew his business, but I wonder how many stables are in that condition. What in the name of common sense is the use of a man keeping scrubby cattle, allowing them 'to wander around in search of food, and herding them in dirty and ill-ventilated stables? You will never rear good live-stock that way. That is the kind of understanding we want our boys to get.

The rearing of good healthy live-stock is the foundation stone of good agriculture. I don't care what country you take, you will find in the final analysis that success or failure in the farming districts of that country will depend upon the production of its live-stock. Do you know that there is far more romance in the pedigree of a good Shorthorn cow than in the past histories of many men? (Laughter) If you can get your boys and girls to understand what that means, to realize that master minds have been engaged in the last fifty years in the production of our great show animals, to, learn something of the efforts and disappointments to achieve those results, you will have accomplished something worth while. One of the things to get the boys to understand is that no one man, or no two generations of men, can become perfect in that kind of work. That is something that no man can ever achieve perfection in. When the time comes when a man has to drop out of the game of breeding good healthy live-stock, let him hand them over to his boys and girls in his declining years and see whether they can improve upon what the old man has done. I hope when I am not very old-say eighty or ninety years, and not much good at addressing a gathering of this kind (laughter)-I hope when that time comes, and when I have to hand over the work of the farm to my boys and girls, they will say: "I guess the old man was right when he insisted that we should not sell this heifer; maybe the old man knew a little about his business." Let the boys and girls go on in this magnificent business and hand it down to another generation.

Breeding cattle is a very scientific business, and it should pass from the hands of one great breeder to the hands of another great breeder. You will find it an occupation in which you are getting the very best there is out of life, and you will find that you are a personality in the estimation of all good live-stock men in the country. If you wish to come into contact with the most intelligent and practical men of business in this class of work. you should go to the International Exhibition at Chicago There you will find the greatest breeders of Shorthorns and Herefords and Clydesdales that can be found anywhere. At the present day there are thousands of men in America spending time and money and energy in buying up the greatest race-horses and cattle that can be found anywhere. The cattle market rules the world today.

Well; Gentlemen, I hope to see the day when there will be institutions solely devoted to the future of agriculture and household science. If the governments of our country will do that for the farmers, there is not much fear of the development of agriculture, and we will have the best farms in the world. We have a splendid heritage of land in this country. In old Ontario-I have seen a good deal of it-you have a splendid heritage here. I venture to say that, in my own province, there is not twenty per cent of the arable land that is under cultivation at the present moment.--We have thousands of acres of good prairie land awaiting men of energy to cultivate and till it. I hope to see it under cultivation during the next few years. I do not understand why so many people want to stay in the miserable cities when there is so much land on which they could settle. Of course there are some men who will never make a success on a farm. Looking after live-stock to some men means nothing but cleaning out stables, and they are naturally prejudiced against that. A man will always be prejudiced about that sort of thing. There are some stables I would hate to clean out myself. 'But it should be a pleasure and not a toil to see the stalls well cleaned and the cattle well bedded down. I want to see the development of agriculture all over Canada today, because, more than anything else, it will make for the development of good citizenship and the very best manhood of the nation. Maybe after a while when we have a well populated countryside, we may spare a few of our boys from the country to come in and put some new blood into the decrepit old cities. Some of your great cities, like New York and London, would have died out long ago if it had not been for the good red blood that was turned into them from the agricultural surroundings. (Applause)


Mr. President and Gentlemen, I am sure we must all have thoroughly enjoyed the very excellent and instructive address to which we have just listened. Mr. Duncan Marshall is one of the most progressive and outstanding agriculturists that the Dominion of Canada has ever produced. (Applause) I have been thinking during the past few weeks that, at the conclusion of the session of the House and after my own strenuous in-door occupation, it would be necessary for me to pack up and go to some place where I could recuperate. After listening to the inspiring .and breezy address of my honourable friend, I feel almost like a new man. He is one man who has made agriculture a profession, and has taken up his government duties and has performed them in a manner which has made him one of 'the outstanding men of agriculture, not only in the Province of Alberta, but throughout the whole Dominion. It has been claimed over and over again that we in the East have done a lot for the West. We have. It is also claimed that for every undertaking in the West the people of Ontario have paid fifty percent of the cost. That .is true; but the greatest contribution that old Ontario has made to Western Canada has been in men, such as my old friend Duncan Marshall, who comes from Ontario. They have made, the development of agriculture in the Western Provinces the success that it is today. Mr. Marshall has placed many facts before you, the outstanding one of which is that agriculture today is occupying very much more attention in the minds of big financial men and business men than ever before. We have come to realize the importance of a vigorous agricultural development, and men today are looking anxiously to agriculture and the development of agriculture, not only in this country, but in all the food-producing countries in the world. We realized during the last few years that this old world has never been more than six weeks ahead of starvation. Mr. Marshall is considered an authority on agricultural conditions. He is a man after my own heart.

I was for some years a teacher of agriculture in the Agricultural College in Guelph. I realized that though that institution be ever so efficient, the staff ever so efficient, the courses ever so broad and satisfying, it was not the success it might be, because, we never could hope for more than a small percentage of the rural boys of the province to reach that college. There should be no expense spared in providing an efficient educational system in the rural parts of the provinces. Only the other week, in presenting the supplementary estimates for education, it delighted me to hear member after member in discussing the estimates, instead of trying to cut them down, wanting to know if the amount was sufficient. They realized that it is necessary for the government to give the people in the rural districts equal opportunities with the people in .the cities to educate their children. The farmers in the Province of Ontario, and especially the mothers, are determined that their sons and daughters shall receive as good an education as the children of parents in the towns and cities. I remember one time hearing a farmer in Guelph describe our educational system as being something like a ladder that reaches from the Schoolhouse in the country to the University in the city. The trouble has been so far that the ladder to the University is away from the farm, and there is no provision made for the man who does not wish to send his children to the city. Gentlemen, I move that we express our sincere thanks for the very interesting and illuminating address which has been given us by Mr. Marshall, and for the honour which he has done us in coming here. (Applause)

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The Future of Agriculture in Alberta

The future of agriculture in Canada. The increased interest in agriculture today among business men and industrial men. The interest in developing and improving agriculture in Canada. Some words with reference to the speaker's own province, Alberta. Stories respecting the difficulties during the past winter, some of them exaggerated. The future of agriculture in any country today dependent largely upon the men employed and engaged in it. The need to keep the boys on the farm, with suggestions for doing so. The need for facilities for education in agriculture. Farming as the one industry that encourages a man for its direct benefits and should attract men of intelligence. The need to be competent and progressive if the future of agriculture in Canada is to be what we want it to be. The need for scientific training in live-stock breeding. Getting the boy born on the farm to stay there. How the government can help. The rearing of good healthy live-stock as the foundation stone of good agriculture. The importance of the cattle market.