Original artwork for the 2015 Calgary Stampede poster goes on tour

The 2015 Calgary Stampede poster original artwork is coming to you, Calgary.

By renowned western artist Oleg Stavrowsky, the painting depicts a thundering chuckwagon race. You can see it up close and personal in the coming weeks at the following locations:

Monday April 21-Sunday, May 4: Lobby of 8th Avenue Place office building, 525 Eighth Avenue Soutwest.

Monday, May 5-Monday May 15, Hyatt Regency Calgary, 700 Centre Street SE.


The artwork will be on display in the Western Oasis throughout the 10-day Stampede and will go on sale at the Western Art Auction on Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 6 p.m. in BMO Centre. To purchase tickets for the auction, contact auction@westernshowcase.com.

Meet the new Stampede Life Members and board members

At the 2014 Annual General Meeting, the Calgary Stampede was thrilled to welcome three new Stampede Life Members and two new individuals to the board of directors.

Stampede Life Member is a distinct honour, reserved for volunteers who have proven exemplary volunteer service, have reached the position of vice-chair  or higher, and hold tenure of 20 years of service as a volunteer, including 10 years as a shareholder. Stampede Life Members are nominated by their peers through detailed nomination and support letters. The nomination package is then sent to the board of director’s Governance and People committee, who forward and recommend to the board of directors. It is ultimately the board that awards the designation.

The board may also recognize and appoint any other volunteer to the Stampede Life Member designation if they feel that the volunteer has made a significant contribution to the organization.

This year’s Stampede Life Members are Murray Bowman, Doug Davidson and Sandy Tidswell (read on for full biographies and quotes from the new Stampede Life Members).

Stampede board members are equally dedicated to the organization. The Nominating and Shareholder Relations committee (NSRC) identifies, with the shareholders, internal community leaders as new board nominees to stand along the incumbent board members on each year’s ballot. Pete Fraser, chair of the NSRC, explains “the extensive nomination process involves conducting business and Stampede references and an in-depth interview; incumbent board members undergo a similar process, carried out by the elected officers.”

This year, there were seven board openings. Stampede shareholders had the opportunity to vote for up to seven of the eight nominees to fill those openings.

This year, shareholders elected new board members Ted Haney and Will Osler along with re-elected incumbents Toni Dixon, Mike O’Connor, Tom O’Leary, Paul Polson and Bob Taylor.

Without further ado, meet the three new Stampede Life Members and two newest additions to the Stampede board of directors:

Murray Bowman, Stampede Life Member
Murray joined the Stampede as a volunteer on the Parade committee in 1972, which led to more than 40 years of volunteering. In 1974, he moved to the Grandstand Show committee and in 1976 joined the Courtesy Car committee. As part of the Courtesy Car committee he established lasting relationships with global celebrities, even leading to hosting a USA Space Shuttle Commander for dinner. Murray is still an active volunteer on the Reception committee, which he joined in 1989.

Murray: I was seven when I marched proudly in the 1932 Calgary Stampede Parade – a member of the 4th Elks Cub and Scout Troup. Vivid and cherished are my memories of that day, as are countless Stampede related experiences during the intervening 82 years. Every undertaking as a volunteer with the Calgary Stampede has been a pleasure – rewarding and beneficial – from directors to committee heads to fellow volunteers. I have met and mingled with the best, and all those marvelous memories are now wrapped in a beautiful big bow with this recognition as Stampede Lifetime Member.

2014 CS AGM


Doug Davidson, Stampede Life Member
Doug is the third longest serving volunteer in the history of the Courtesy Car committee. He started volunteering on the committee in 1984 and joined alumni last year in 2013. His talents were used in all areas of Courtesy Car including driving, desk management and coordinating Parade Day morning. Outside this committee, his service to the Stampede was always multi-faceted as he was a proud sponsor of the Queens’ Alumni committee and of the Royalty committee.

Doug: I was honoured to be nominated by my friends and associates to be considered. Then to receive it was truly special. I feel slightly selfish as no matter what the board believes I gave to the Stampede, I have received back a hundred fold.

2014 CS AGM


Sandy J. Tidswell, Stampede Life Member
A Calgary Stampede volunteer since 1986, Sandy helped originate the Calgary Stampede Show Riders as her first role in the Stampede Band committee. In 1998, Sandy was involved in the grand creation of Equi Dance 2000, a Musical Ride competition. Following this, she became member of the Indian Events committee in 2000, where she stayed for nine years. Sandy wrapped up her incredible Stampede volunteer career on the Royalty committee, where she served from 2008 to 2014.

Sandy: I was absolutely not expecting it. When Mr. Thompson (Bob Thompson, president and chairman of the board) called, my first response was to ask what I can do for him. It’s a great honour—very special.

2014 CS AGM


Ted Haney, board of directors
Ted is an agri-business executive with 30 years of experience in domestic and international management and marketing. He has proven his leadership in crisis management, public relations and communications, and in working to resolve issues and barriers to success for the Canadian agriculture industry. Ted became a Stampede volunteer in 1997. He has served on the Friends of The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede committee, the Indian Events committee and chaired the International Agriculture committee.

Ted: It was a great honour to be elected to the Calgary Stampede board of directors. I remain committed to supporting the role of agriculture within the organization and its programs. I also look forward to working with others to help the Calgary Stampede reflect the diversity of our city and province.

2014_CS_Ted Haney

Will Osler, board of directors
Will is currently a partner at Bennett Jones LLP and national co-head of the firm’s Capital Markets and Mergers and Acquisitions practice. He is recognized for his effectiveness within his corporate, commercial legal practice. Will began volunteering for the Stampede in 1995; he a second generation volunteer. He has served on the Courtesy Car committee, where he was chair from 2010 to 2012, as well as the Centennial committee.

Will: Needless to say it feels great to have been elected to the board. I’m grateful to have this opportunity, excited about getting to work and a little nervous about how much I have to learn.

2014_CS_Will Osler

Aggie Days Action

Over the past five months your Royal Trio (with an unbelievable amount of support and guidance from our equine sub-committee) has been working hard to get our royal steeds in tip-top shape.  We’ve been out at Heathercrest Ranch numerous times a week to exercise and to really get to know our “Princes” before we begin a summer full of rodeos and parades, including Stampede!

All of our hard work was put to the test not too long ago at Aggie Days, which is a five day agricultural fair for kids at Stampede Park.  Princesses Shannon and Stephanie and I participated in the beginning of the rodeo for the grand entry,  then returned after taking care of our horses to enjoy the remainder of the show and sign some postcards.

(l-r) Princess Stephanie and Snoopy, Hawk and myself, and Princess Shannon and Kansas

(l-r) Princess Stephanie and Snoopy, Hawk and myself, and Princess Shannon and Kansas

Even though I’ve been on horses my whole life and often feel more comfortable on them than on my own two feet, it was quite nerve-racking waiting behind the chutes to enter the arena.  I had been waiting for that moment since the day of the crowning back in September: my first grand entry.  I can’t really recall my name being announced, but I didn’t have to worry about missing my cue; the second the gate in front of us opened, my trusty steed Hawk was off like a shot.

[Video] Caption: Hawk and I; and one of our first grand entries!

Due to all my worrying and nerves beforehand I forgot one simple fact: while I was very new to this whole grand entry thing, my horse was an old pro.  After we galloped around the arena and made our way to our position for the national anthem (in front of 3000 screaming and cheering kids!) I had a little time to think and relax.  I realized that the past few months of riding practice (and likely the numerous horse cookies gifted to him by me) had created a bond between Hawk and I, and I knew that if I ever had a little panic attack again, my horse would take care of me.


                                   Hawk and I post grand entry


Aggie Days has been one of my (many) highlights for this year, and the mini celebration of farm life, in addition to our first grand entry, has gotten me so excited for Stampede.  I can’t believe it’s only two months and twelve days away… not that I’m counting or anything.


Hop on over to explore our city

What do Calgary, London, New York and Paris all have in common? They all have hop-on, hop-off city tours! If this is news to you, it may be because 2014 marks the first year that Round The Block Tours, a brand new touring company, will be offering Calgary’s only hop-on, hop-off tour bus.

You guessed it! The famous Calgary Stampede is one of the stops on the tour. Bill Church, Calgary Stampede special projects manager, explains “we will be offering training to the bus drivers on the history and features of the Calgary Stampede. They will encourage guests on the tour to visit our public art exhibits, the Grain Academy and the Stampede Store, as well as the Scotiabank Saddledome and other buildings on Park.” Church has been liaising with Tony Pietromonaco, president and founder of Round The Block Tours, to work together on the permit, signage, logistics and the locations of the Calgary Stampede bus stop.

TourBus  (image credit to Round The Block Tours)

Pietromonaco is a local entrepreneur and his idea for a bus tour began when he noticed that Calgary, unlike other tourism destinations, did not have a company that offered tours that allow you to explore all the city has to offer at your own pace. This realization led him to begin working with Tourism Calgary, the City of Calgary and with various tourist attractions throughout the city. The result of this collaboration was the Energy City Tours. These sightseeing tours offer the ability for guests to explore various locations around Calgary at their leisure, taking in as much or as little as they desire. Tour guests are dropped off and picked up at special tour stops at each tourist destination and a daily schedule allows them to set their pace at each location.

After a team of Calgary Stampede employees returned from the Round The Block Tours media-launch event, they came back bursting with energy and excitement. “We are enthused about Tony’s vision and were pleased that he considered the Calgary Stampede to be one of the stops on his tour. The Calgary Stampede wishes him success and we are preparing to welcome all of his clients with our western hospitality,” says Church.


Lindsay Jardine, Calgary Stampede tourism sales manager, adds “we are very excited to see Calgary get a hop-on, hop-off bus tour, which has long been a void for visitors to easily experience our city. We fully support the Stampede Park leg of the tour as it will provide out-of-town visitors access to our year-round gathering place.”

The Calgary Stampede is part of the Heritage Line tour route, which begins service on May 1 and continues until October 31. There are also excursions available to explore central and southern Alberta in order to create the best experience possible for visitors to Calgary. Guests can purchase tickets either online or from various locations in the downtown core. For more information visit: http://www.rtbtours.ca/.

The Energy City Tours are a great way to explore the City of Calgary and include some attractions and driver-commentary that even Calgary-born locals can enjoy!

The time when the Amazing Spider-Man came to the Stampede (and happy Comic and Entertainment Expo!)

This weekend is the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo in BMO Centre, an exciting weekend where geeks like me can meet their favourite hobbits. Stampede Park will be crawling with aliens, superheroes, time travelers, goddesses, Chewbaccas and other strange and wonderful costumed people and creatures.

Did you know that the real Spider-Man actually visited Calgary and Stampede Park in the 1992 Marvel Comic Chaos in Calgary?

Spiderman in Calgary

That’s right–even the Amazing Spiderman couldn’t resist some good western heritage and values. With his friends, Dr. Cargill and his daughter Jolene, Peter Parker was invited to photograph the Stampede for Canada’s 125th Birthday. Also there: The Rangers! superheroes of the Southwest.


They’re all enjoying the show until some bad guys kidnap Dr. Cargill. That’s when Spiderman has to take on the Man-Bull and starts spinning barbed wire rather than his usual spider-webby-stuff.


(We’ll have to tell Spiderman it’s Yahoo! not Yehaw! next time he’s in Calgary.)

It turns out that Jolene has a solar-powered turbine wheelchair and is destined to become Canada’s next super hero.


This is the part where the Dreadknight gets stuck in a western display (Weadickville?)

There’s a showdown in the Grandstand.


The Archie Boyce Pavilion, which I’ll take to mean the Boyce Theatre.Spiderman_Boyce  And the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Spiderman_SaddledomeUntil finally Jolene (aka Turbine) and Spiderman save the day.


Perhaps we’ll catch a glimpse of Spidey this weekend. We’ll be sure to get him a white hat this time.

Food is Culture

Doris Ufoegbune and Kevin Ufoegbune are the hosts and producers of Flavours of Africa, an African cooking show on SHAW TV. The aim of Flavours of Africa is to provide the public with authentic dishes that are delicious, easy and healthy. Their motto is that food is culture, and that cultures that eat together, stay together, through food, we can continue to appreciate diversity and promote cultural unity. Flavours of Africa will be on the Calgary Co-op Kitchen Theatre stage (July 5 & 6 at 11:30 a.m.) in the Western Oasis, BMO Centre Halls D & E.

flavours_of_Africa_Kevin_Doris edited

Calgary Stampede (CS): Briefly Tell Us about Yourself

Doris Ufoegbune: I am an entrepreneur, writer, creator and the producer of Flavours of Africa, Canada’s first African Cooking show which can be seen on Shaw Television here in Calgary. I host the show with my son, Kevin, who is also a writer, creator and a producer.

I was a teacher in Nigeria and I immigrated to Canada to start a new life with my husband Ugochukwu Ufoegbune who continues to support me in everything I do. We have three children, Nicole Ufoegbune, Tracy Ufoegbune and Kevin Ufoegbune. In 2005, I launched a catering business called Global Cuisine Catering Services with award winning signature dishes such as lasagne, jambalaya, Gumbo and lamb roast. The City of Ottawa invited me to cater for them and as a result, the Ottawa Citizen coined me, “caterer devoted to her artistry”. Through my company and culinary artistry I was invited to Margaret Trudeau’s Embassy dinner, an event that often drew over six hundred people a year. I have catered to ambassadors, dignitaries, various organizations, institutions, groups and individuals. I recently launched a more contemporary catering business called Doris Catering Services and delightfully cater to weddings, celebrations, special occasions, office parties, gatherings and holiday parties.

Following his graduation from Carleton University my son Kevin and I created a television program called Flavours of Africa in order to preserve and promote African cuisine, traditions and culture and to support Canadian multiculturalism. We also aim to draw attention towards significant societal subject matter.
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Stampede Talent Search gears up to discover talented young performers

You may have heard Calgary Stampede Talent Search contestants sharing Stampede spirit at a Caravan committee event, or singing on stage at “Windows on the West” during the 10-day Stampede. Past-winners have even taken the Coca-Cola stage, Nashville North and the Grandstand. Do you remember Paul Brandt hosting the centennial TransAlta Grandstand Show? He is the 1992 Stampede Talent Search Grand Prize winner.

Talent Search_3

The 2014 Stampede Talent Search auditions take place May 2 to 4, 2014. Qualifying contestants will then compete during the 10-day Stampede for their share of more than $10,000 in cash prizes.

From September to August, the Stampede Talent Search committee works hard to discover, encourage, develop and showcase talented performers. That means providing performance opportunities for many of our finalists and past contestants at venues across Calgary and the surrounding area. From office parties to grand openings and celebrations, we are continually seeking stages to show off our exceptional young talent.

Talent Search_1

The Stampede Talent Search program and committee is a little known yet integral part of the spirit and hospitality that the Stampede provides. We are dedicated to developing and showcasing some of the best young talent. This year is the first year that our audition call is Canada-wide – and so far, we have contestants coming to show their stuff from BC to Ontario. You can be certain that the diversity and quality of our performers will only get better and better in the coming years.

Talent Search_2

Sign up for auditions is still open. If you know a talented young performer between 13 and 21 years of age, information on submitting a video audition or to sign up for a live audition can be found at www.stampedetalentsearch.com. We are even looking for talented Junior performers between ages 6 to 12.

The Stampede Talent Search competition starts Saturday, July 5 and runs nightly until July 12. All shows start at 6 p.m. in the Boyce Theatre. After the first five nights of the competition, the initial field of 70 Senior performers is narrowed down to 28 for the semi-finals and then to 14 for the final night when the Grand Prize winner is announced.

Jane’s Walk shares Stampede art and history

 Jane’s Walk is Sunday, May 4. Meet in front of the Cowboy’s Casino at 2 p.m.


From the 1880 Agricultural Exhibits, to Guy Weadick’s Dream for The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, to the first chuckwagon race in 1923 to the journey of the horse and cowboy By the Banks of the Bow—experience Stampede and Alberta history and spirit at Jane’s Walk on Sunday, May 4, 2014.

The two-hour guided walk begins at 2 p.m. in front of the Stampede Casino and winds it way through Stampede Park. No need to register – just come out, bring your interest in art, walking shoes and a camera.

Members of the Stampede Public Art and Historical committees will guide you to seven sculptures and eight murals. The two committees work closely together to showcase the most significant pieces of art at Stampede Park.

“Being part of Jane’s Walk gives the Stampede a chance to share its public art collection with Calgarians,” said Jill Cross, Public Art committee chair. “Each piece of art is a story. For example, when we visit By the Banks of the Bow, the narrative takes you right there, to the river the horses are trying to cross. Each horse represents a special character the artists conjured.”


The Stampede’s passion for public art dates back to 1912, when Ed Borein and Charlie Russell showcased their artwork at the Calgary Stampede. By the 1980s, the Western Art Show had become a regular feature of the 10-day Stampede. Today, the Stampede’s annual Western Art Show is one of Canada’s most significant art shows. The Stampede also celebrates art and western heritage year-round through the historical mural program and the parade of historical posters.

The Calgary Stampede Public Art committee was created in 2008 with a mandate to reach out to our community at large, to tell the story of, and retain our western heritage and values. To date, the committee has proudly unveiled two significant pieces of art: “Outlaw,” honouring one of the rankest bulls ever and “Do Re Me Fa Sol La Si Do,” Joe Fafard’s story-telling horses which we also gifted to our sister-city, Quebec City in honour of its 400th anniversary. Both of these pieces reside in downtown Calgary. The last bronze that was unveiled, in June 2012, was “By the Banks of the Bow;” with 15 horses and two riders crossing the Bow, it is said to be one of the largest pieces of art in North America!

The Stampede also celebrates art and western heritage year-round through the historical mural program and the parade of historical posters. The Public Art committee also works closely with the Historical Committee to showcase the most significant pieces of art at Stampede Park.

The Calgary Stampede Historical committee preserves, presents and promotes the history of the Calgary Stampede starting from its earliest days as a fair in 1884, to the first Stampede in 1912, all the way to present day.

From the Jane’s Walk website.

Cyclone into sunset CAL031013-gya-32

About Jane’s Walk: Jane’s Walks are free, locally organized walking tours, in which people get together to explore, talk about and celebrate their neighbourhoods. Where more traditional tours are a bit like walking lectures, a Jane’s Walk is more of a walking conversation. Leaders share their knowledge, but also encourage discussion and participation among the walkers.

More than 100 cities participate in Jane’s Walk.

About Jane Jacobs: Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urbanist and activist whose writings championed a fresh, community-based approach to city building.

Calgary Stampede kitchen waste turns into garden food

As spring turns thoughts to gardens, the Calgary Stampede has been doing its part to grow Calgary’s compost stockpiles.

After a successful pilot program to compost the massive volume of kitchen waste from Stampede’s central kitchen, the Stampede is moving ahead with a permanent composting program.  Since February, Stampede chefs – who prepare 175,000 meals throughout Stampede Park year-round – have been separating their kitchen peelings, waste food, meats, bones, fats and plastics.


In the first two months of composting, Stampede chefs composted 8,000 kg. With busy season right ahead, those volumes will only increase. Overall, Stampede’s executive chef Derek Dale estimates about 80 per cent of the Stampede’s kitchen waste will be diverted from landfill, where organics would otherwise decompose into carbon dioxide and methane.


Kevin Mulligan, Stampede’s maintenance manager, worked with Derek to get this program going, working with Green Calgary and PEL Recycling, the company contracted to take the waste to the City of Calgary’s East Compost station twice a week.


Kevin and his crew are working to expand composting to other parts of Stampede Park, including additional kitchens and event-time food waste. More information in this video news story, and in the news release and backgrounder on the Calgary Stampede’s environmental programs.





Four of the most memorable Stampede Talent Search moments – from the eyes of committee members.

The Stampede Talent Search committee works year round to discover, encourage, develop and showcase young talent. Along the way, there have been performers who have raised goose-bumps with their talent, reduced the audience to tears, and even become etched in the hearts and minds of committee members for their remarkable achievements.

Ask any committee member who has been around to see the ups and downs of several years of competition and the little moments are shockingly more memorable than the show-stopping ones.

For Colleen Tynan, committee member since 2002, her most memorable moment was following the story of Tara Tennant. “In Tara’s first year auditioning she was nervous and had little stage presence. Three years later, she captivated the audience, drew them in and won the competition.”

Tara Tennent’s performance of “Sunday Kind Of Love”.

For Gay Robinson, committee member since 2010, a similar story. “Each year it is exciting to see contestants come back and be more confident. I love seeing that they have worked hard to grow as people and as performers. I remember a shy young Junior performer who continued on to be a Senior performer and just a few years later won 2nd runner-up!”

And Committee Chair Scott Henderson agrees. “Over the years we get invested in our young performers. My most memorable moment was watching Meg Contini win the Grand Prize. In 34 years, no one has won more money than her – including day money and prize money. To see her finally win was a testament to her talent, her incredible spirit and supportive and positive family. Back then, winning was just the beginning for her. She has achieved a music degree from Humber College (with help from her Stampede Talent Search prize money), and success with several musical projects including her stunning vocal trio the O’Pears.”

Meg Contini performing How High the Moon at the 2009 Calgary Stampede Talent Search when she won First Runner-Up.

Of course, over the years there have been awe-inspiring performances from a handful of diverse talents, such as contortionists, yo-yo artists and a sitar player, but for Roxanne McKendry, without a doubt, Paul Brandt captured her memory.

“In 2004, Paul came to do a special performance during finals. One of the songs he sang was “Leavin’” and the hair on the back of my arms stood-up. It was absolutely electrifying to be that close to such an incredible talent. And emotional to know he started on our stage.”

Auditions kick-off the 2014 season and the entire committee is looking forward to seeing what new memories will be made that will inspire us to work harder on behalf of the incredible young talent we are lucky enough to showcase.

Canada-wide Auditions for the 2014 Stampede Talent Search are open! For video audition information or to sign up for live auditions May 2 to 4, 2014 details can be found at www.stampedetalentsearch.com.


Aggie Days brings the farm to the city

This past week was Aggie Days, sponsored by Encana, where the Calgary Stampede brings the farm to the city. Kids were able to brush noses with llamas, see enormous farm equipment and learn about where their eggschickens, and canola come from, and much more. Watch the video for a glimpse into the 2014 Aggie Days.

“I personally feel that Aggie Days is one of the greatest gifts that Calgary Stampede gives to our City because it is a free event that is highly educational, safe and so fun that it leaves life long memories with children who grow up to bring their own children to Aggie Days,” says Lori Wheeler, Agriculture program coordinator.

Approximately 11,000 school children attended Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and 42,000 guests attended Aggie Days on the weekend this year.

The dedicated Agriculture Education committee volunteers start working in September to prepare for Aggie Days in April. Aggie Days is a multi-faceted event that requires an incredible amount of planning. There’s the noon-hour rodeo during the school days, two agricultural competitions, more than 50 exhibitors to coordinate and 10 other Calgary Stampede volunteer committees involved. The event also entails reaching out to hundreds of schools and home-school parents throughout Calgary and surrounding areas, coordinating school buses, implementing an Art Showcase for individuals with special needs and bringing in guest readers to read farm-based books to our guests.

Many thanks to the wonderful Ag Education committee volunteers for such a successful event!

Aggie Days celebrates its 30th Anniversary next year–we cannot wait!

Go Barley!

Alberta Barley, a farmer-directed, not-for-profit organization representing Alberta’s barley farmers, will once again be on the Calgary Co-op Kitchen Theatre stage (July 7 & 10 at 12:30 p.m.).

Linda Whitworth, a home economist, presents on behalf of Alberta Barley and she recently shared some information about herself, the wonders of barley and provided a favourite recipe.

LindaWhitworth_ AlbertaBarley

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Agriculture in Alberta: A Brief History Part 2

We finish our series on the brief history of agriculture in Alberta by Terry James today! Terry is a mixed farmer who lives near Vegreville, Alberta, on the farm his grandfather first moved to in 1917.  He studied agriculture at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and worked for a number of years in the crop supplies industry.  Currently he is a full time farmer. Together with his brother and son, they farm about 2000 acres of grain land, and maintain a commercial herd of beef cattle. For part 1 please click here

As the supplies of cheap land had dried up in the United States and areas further east, Alberta became the new frontier for people looking to acquire their own piece of earth.  One of the major technological developments that enabled successful grain farms to be established was early maturing wheat. The first of these varieties was called Marquis and was developed by the Dominion Experimental Farms Service. It wasn’t long before a wheat breeding program was established at the University of Alberta.Their first widely grown variety was released in 1926 and was called Red Bobs 222.

Heartache and heartbreak struck many farm families in the 1930’s. Prices for agriculture commodities plummeted.  In addition drought compounded the problem with the area known as the Palliser triangle being especially hard hit. So many farms were abandoned in East Central Alberta, that the government designated the region a “Special Area.” This region is still divided into Special Areas that have a different form of municipal government than other regions of Alberta.

The advent of World War II marked the end of the depression and meant that Europe needed to import large amounts of grain. This was the start of a long stretch of prosperity for Alberta farms. Rapid mechanization, and the introduction of synthetic fertilizers and pest control products led to vastly increased productivity. In fact, around the 1970’s the problem became one of overproduction and government programs were designed to take some land out of production. The cyclical bouts of shortages due to weather disasters here, or elsewhere in the world, and bouts of overproduction continue to be the bane of farmers today.

Canola is now Alberta's most important crop and Asia has replaced Europe as the most important market.

Canola is now Alberta’s most important crop and Asia has replaced Europe as the most important market.

Agriculture continues to evolve in Alberta. Europe, including Russia, has become self-sufficient in food, and a competitor in the agricultural commodity world. As a result, Alberta farmers have turned more of their attention more to the Pacific Rim. Japan is the biggest consumer of Alberta’s most valuable crop, canola. New mechanical developments have reduced the need for tillage and have helped conserve soil and moisture, and reduced the fuel costs of farmers. On the biological side, developments in the science of genetics have produced superior crop and livestock strains.

Alberta farmers have been quick to adopt new technology such as no-till which has increased productivity and reduced environmental impacts.

Alberta farmers have been quick to adopt new technology such as no-till which has increased productivity and reduced environmental impacts.

Agriculture is not without its controversies though. Some have raised objections to modern production practices, while others have political objections, especially to the tightly managed dairy and poultry sectors, sectors in which supply is carefully controlled. Still the future looks bright. World population continues to grow, and greater economic wealth has created the opportunity for better diets for hundreds of millions of people. Alberta farmers are well poised to take advantage of this.

The story of agriculture in Alberta is an ongoing one, and Alberta farmers would like nothing better than to continue their story of success by providing a stable and healthy food supply to a hungry world.

Thank you, Terry for sharing your knowledge and your passion with our Aggie Days readers!

Agriculture in Alberta: A Brief History Part 1

I really wanted to get a history of agriculture in Alberta, so I posed the question on Twitter as to who I should ask to blog for us. An overwhelming response was @LavoyFarmer and I’m so glad he agreed to guest post for us today! Terry James is a mixed farmer who lives near Vegreville, Alberta, on the farm his grandfather first moved to in 1917.  He studied agriculture at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and worked for a number of years in the crop supplies industry.  Currently he is a full time farmer. Together with his brother and son, they farm about 2000 acres of grain land, and maintain a commercial herd of beef cattle.  

When the definitive history of agriculture in the 20th century is written, surely one of the success stories listed will be that of agriculture in Alberta. It is the story of how a group of immigrants overcame a harsh climate, a lack of infrastructure and a host of other obstacles to become one of the bread baskets of Canada. It is a story of technological achievement as well as of human drama that has even had geopolitical implications. In 1983 the leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, visited Western Canada. Here in Alberta, he met a dairy farmer whose dairy cows yielded an average of 4,700 kilograms of milk each year; more than double that of a comparable dairy farm in the Soviet Union. It believed this visit is one of the contributing factors that led to Mr. Gorbachev’s policy of perestroika, and the crumbling of the Iron Curtain.

Agriculture in Alberta is a relatively recent story. Unlike many other areas of North America, the aboriginal people of Alberta did not practice sedentary farming–they moved around, tracking the bison and other game, and collected native fruits and vegetables from wherever they could. It is not surprising that the earliest agricultural endeavors in the province emulated that model. Huge open rangelands made cattle ranching easy, and led to the rise of the cattle barons. Beginning in about 1881 and continuing through to the early 1900’s, ambitious businessmen, many of whom resided in Eastern Canada or Great Britain, were able to lease huge tracts of land on which they grazed cattle. Day to day work on these ranches was done by cowboys, whose culture Albertans are still associated with, even if it is far removed from the reality of most present-day Albertans. The beef industry though, remains vitally important to Alberta. Saskatchewan may be Canada’s wheat king, and Ontario might be the horticultural capital, but Alberta has always been, and still is Canada’s beef capital.  Interestingly enough, one of the more recent success stories is the addition of native bison to the livestock farms of Alberta.

Cattle ranching was the first large-scale agricultural enterprise in Alberta and continues to be an essential component of today’s agricultural economy.

Cattle ranching was the first large-scale agricultural enterprise in Alberta and continues to be an essential component of today’s agricultural economy.

The person often credited with being Alberta’s first arable farmer is Peter Pond. He established the first permanent trading post in Alberta on the lower Athabasca River, surprisingly far north, in 1778. Here it is said “he formed the finest kitchen garden….in Canada”.  Most early forts had a garden patch where they raised vegetables for their own use, and experimented with European crops. Oats and barley generally did well, but in most years, the wheat did not reach maturity. The cultivation of crops was to remain a relatively small scale enterprise in Alberta until after the completion of the Trans Canada Railway in 1885.

The railway, coupled with the Homestead Act, and aggressive advertising by the Canadian government led to a rapid settlement of Alberta beginning in about 1895 and continuing through to the early 1920’s. Settlement generally followed the progress of railway development. It spread north from Calgary to Edmonton, and then west from Lloydminster following the Great Northern Railway Line. Approximately every 8 miles along the railway, a settlement was established, a distance chosen based on the distance a team of horses could easily transverse in a day. The Homestead Act enabled early settlers of land to acquire a piece of land for a very modest price provided they made a commitment of time and effort to the cultivation of that land.

The development of high quality, early maturing wheat varieties enabled Alberta farmers to prosper by satisfying a growing demand in Europe especially during and following the war years.

The development of high quality, early maturing wheat varieties enabled Alberta farmers to prosper by satisfying a growing demand in Europe especially during and following the war years.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this great piece by Terry!

Encana Common Ground Community Garden

Aggie Days is sponsored by Encana, and today on our blog we wanted to showcase the Encana Community Garden at the Calgary Public Library, which is described as “a truly organic process, there is room for the growth of ideas as well as carrots, a place to sit and ponder or read, an opportunity to learn, to care and to share with one and all.” Please watch the video to learn more about this project. Don’t forget to come join us at Aggie Days THIS weekend from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM at the BMO Centre, it’s FREE for the whole family!