In the beginning of the 20th century, when French-Canadian
settlers were being recruited by the clergy, people were
strongly encouraged to farm. Agriculture was highly promoted by
the French-Canadian Catholic clergy; in fact, many believed that
rural life was healthier than city life, and that farmers were
less influenced by the "nefarious" effects of modern city.
At the time, homesteaders in Western Canada could obtain a
quarter section of land for $10. Most settlers saw this as an
investment: if one did not like the farming life, one could sell
the quarter section after the required years of development. The
majority of settlers were not acquainted with farming and as a
result, many did not succeed.
In spite of the inherent difficulties of developing land for
agriculture, many French-Canadians did manage to survive
economic depressions; natural calamities such as hail, frost and
drought; and pass their farms down to their children who have
continued in the same industry.
Initially, in some regions such as Northeast Alberta,
settlers were encouraged to pursue mixed farming, while their
contemporaries in Saskatchewan were concentrating on cash crop
farming on a large scale. Closer to Edmonton, farmers in the
Beaumont and Fort Saskatchewan area tended to concentrate on the
market farm business, and provided produce and milk to the city.
The development of a good rail network made it possible for
farmers to ship their goods to the city. In Central and Southern
Alberta, ranching or cow-calf operations were the norm; such
operations required large farms for grazing, or community
pastures. In the Peace River area, large farms quickly became
commonplace, many of them being family businesses. The town of
St. Isidore, created in the 1950s by a group of settlers from
the Lac Saint Jean region of Quebec, was essentially a
cooperative enterprise which was promoted by a Catholic
organization to encourage agricultural settlement.
Alongside many Albertans, French-Canadians joined the massive
flow towards the cities where opportunities abounded for
everyone. Across the province, most farmers had to invest and
expand their operations in order to stay in business; so it is
with Franco-Albertans who continue to farm, but in much more
reduced numbers today.