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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
Background, People, Culture, Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource and Alberta Lottery Fund

 

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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.

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