Breaking New Ground: A Century of Farm Equipment Manufacturing on the Canadian Prairies


258 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-895618-23-1
DDC 338.4'7631'0971209





Reviewed by W.J.C. Cherwinski

W.J.C. Cherwinski is a history professor at Memorial University of
Newfoundland and co-author of Lectures in Canadian Labour and
Working-Class History.


On significant anniversaries, major corporate executives commission
portraits and their firms authorize official histories, often by
journalists, to chronicle the firm’s progress and describe its
contribution to the country or the world. Breaking New Ground is an
official history that is different in several respects, all of which
contribute to the book’s value, both to those whose accomplishments
have been described and to those of the larger reading public who might
be interested in the subject.

First, the sponsoring group, the Prairie Implement Manufacturers
Association, founded in 1970, is interesting in that it is essentially
an organization of competitors producing machinery for the same regional
market. Yet its member companies are sufficiently perceptive to
recognize that cooperation is needed if they are to survive against
larger rivals—the full-line companies—(which, incidentally, receive
fair treatment in this volume) from central Canada and beyond. The
key—and a recurring theme in this book—is that local firms know best
the West’s soil and growing conditions; the association’s members
have thus been able to create the best products for the market.

The authors demonstrate strong research skills. Their first chapter, on
the historical development of the Prairie region, is based on a sound
scholarship that prevails throughout the book. The last four chapters
are devoted to specific processes related to Prairie farming, including
tilling and clearing, seeding, fertilizing and chemicals application,
harvesting, and livestock-related activities and the machinery solutions
found to make them more cost-effective. What emerges from this book is
an appreciation for the complexity of Prairie agriculture, and for the
ingenuity and resourcefulness of its manufacturing sector.


Wetherell, Donald G., “Breaking New Ground: A Century of Farm Equipment Manufacturing on the Canadian Prairies,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 4, 2023,