Unifarm: A Story of Conflict and Change


342 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55238-051-3
DDC 630'.6'07123




Reviewed by Bruce Grainger

Bruce Grainger is head of the Public Services Department, Macdonald
Library, McGill University.


Unifarm was a direct membership general farm organization that existed
under that name from 1970 until 1996 when it was renamed Wild Rose
Agricultural Producers. Jaques begins her story with the pioneering
period, noting the outstanding leadership of Henry Wise Wood, whose
strong belief in cooperation among farmers was demonstrated throughout
his career and especially during his presidency of the United Farmers of
Alberta (UFA) from 1917 to 1935. The political offshoot of the UFA
governed Alberta from 1921 to 1935.

Historically, there have been many general farm organizations to
represent all the varied interests of farmers in Alberta. The need to
organize for mutual betterment given difficult economic circumstances
gave rise to a number of sometimes competing farm organizations and
businesses, whose histories are briefly outlined. A helpful two-page
summary clarifies the various amalgamations and changes of name of these
entities that have occurred over the years. Unifarm, the focus of this
book, was a combination in 1970 of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture
and the Farmers’ Union of Alberta.

In great and affectionate detail, the author describes the various
leaders, programs, achievements, and setbacks of Unifarm, which went
from 30,000 direct members in 1970 to perhaps fewer than 2000 direct
members today. This is attributed to the decline in the farm population,
the availability of a greater variety of social activities than
formerly, the apparent preference of farmers to belong to commodity
organizations, and a disinclination on the part of successive Alberta
governments to allow compulsory funding by farmers (or to provide other
financial support), as happens in other provinces.

While Jaques follows every twist and turn of Unifarm’s history and
its undoubted influence on government policy, the role of other
organizations in these same policy decisions is not described. Likewise,
considerable time is spent discussing Unifarm’s role in the debate
that led to the eventual elimination of the Crowsnest Pass freight rate
subsidy to prairie grain growers, but there is little mention of the
practical results of this decision: a massive shift to animal production
and processing in Alberta that has had profound economic, social, and
environmental consequences (especially in “feedlot alley”).

However, as the history of an organization, the book does provide a
wealth of details. There are biographical sketches of farm leaders and
photographs of them and other organizational personnel. In addition to
consulting the archives of relevant farm organizations, personal papers,
newspapers and journals, and various secondary sources, the author has
conducted nearly 50 interviews.


Jaques, Carrol., “Unifarm: A Story of Conflict and Change,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/9088.