Diversified agriculture was important to Canada around 1893 because it helped farmers to mitigate the risks associated with relying on a single crop. At that time, most farmers in Canada focused on growing wheat, which was the primary export crop. However, relying on a single crop made farmers vulnerable to fluctuations in weather, pests, and market prices. Diversifying their crops allowed farmers to spread their risks and ensure a more stable income. A diversified agriculture also helped to improve soil fertility and reduce erosion. Diversifying their crops allowed farmers to have different harvest times, this way they can sell different products throughout the year, and not rely on one specific harvest.
Furthermore, the diversification of agriculture helped to support the growth of other industries such as food processing and transportation. This was particularly important for Canada's economy as it was heavily dependent on agriculture during the late 19th century.
Canadian Produce Exchange
The Canadian Produce Exchange was a bustling center of trade and commerce in Toronto during the late 19th century. Established in 1891, the exchange provided a platform for the buying and selling of agricultural products, including grains, livestock, and dairy products. The exchange was equipped with state-of-the-art technology for the time, including telegraphs and tickers, allowing for real-time communication with other markets around the world. Trading at the exchange was conducted in a lively, often frenetic atmosphere, with buyers and sellers frantically negotiating deals on the floor. The exchange also played an important role in setting prices for agricultural products, which helped to stabilize the industry and ensure fair prices for both producers and consumers. The Canadian Produce Exchange was a vital institution for the agricultural industry in Canada and a key driver of the country's economic growth in the late 19th century.
The Canadian Produce Exchange helped diversify agriculture in Canada by providing a centralized marketplace where farmers could sell their products to buyers from all over the country and even internationally. The exchange created a demand for a wider range of agricultural products, which incentivized farmers to experiment with different crops and methods of production. This led to the expansion of the agriculture industry in Canada beyond the traditional staples of wheat and dairy. For example, the exchange played a role in the development of the fruit industry in the Niagara region, as it provided a market for local fruit growers to sell their produce to buyers across the country. The exchange helped to stimulate competition, increase efficiency, and encourage innovation in the agriculture sector.
Canadian Dollar Wheat
The Canadian Dollar Wheat program was established in 1892 by the Canadian government to promote the production and export of high-quality wheat. Under this program, farmers were incentivized to produce wheat of a specific quality, known as Number 1 Hard, which was then sold at a fixed price of $1 per bushel. The program proved to be a success, as it helped to standardize wheat production in Canada and encouraged farmers to adopt more modern agricultural practices. By 1893, Canada had become one of the world's largest exporters of wheat, and the program had helped to diversify the country's agricultural industry. However, the program also faced criticism from some farmers who felt that it favored larger producers and limited their ability to negotiate prices for their crops. Despite this, the Canadian Dollar Wheat program continued to operate until it was eventually replaced by a new system of price supports in the early 20th century.
Period Commentary on Crop Diversification
An economic derangement of some kind in agricultural pursuits is apparent when there is an excessive production of certain commodities, like wheat and cotion, while simultaneously there is a dearth of other important staples, such as hog products, horned cattle and sheep, conditions which we experience in this country at the present time. This irregularity in the relations between supply and demand is attended with an abnormal depression of prices for the one class of products, corresponding wite their abundance, and high prices for the other, governed by the degree of scarcity. Both the domestic and export trade are injuriously affected by such a dislocation.
On the Produce Exchange the record is made almost on the same day that wheat is selling lower than ever before and that hog products are high beyond precedent. The calculation was lately made that the average of daily quotations for wheat, actual sales in New York "was the lowest ever recorded in any month during the 67 years of which quotations have been regularly compiled." And as to provisions, it was stated in the market reports for last Saturday that not at any time since the war has the price of hogs been as at present—that the country is being ransacked for stock, and everything having the shape of a hog, no consideration being given to age or quality, is now on the market at sellers' prices. Beef and mutton likewise feel the upward tendency and sell at much higher prices than a year ago.
Cotton is another staple that is going through a crucial period, prices having touched a point where there was said to be no profit for the planter, but the market is now believed to be recovering, as the result of a co-operative movement in all the cotton States to restrict production. Cotton planters, like the Western farmers, have been compelled to precipitate their product on the lowest market ever known.
Although farmers not long ago claimed that there was no profit in growing dollar wheat, they have since the last crop, been compelled to content themselves with receiving only from 50 to 60 cents per bushel, according to location.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press surveys the situation with reference to wheat, concluding that it is "through diversified farming" that a remedy can be found for unremunerative prices, and the same remark will apply to the whole field of agricultural enterprise. The writer says;
The plain fact is that there is over-production of wheat. There is more wheat raised in the world than can be marketed, under ordinary conditions, at a price sufficient to give the grower a reasonable compensation for his work. This is the natural consequence of an unprecedented development of the wheat-growing area in the United States. Under the stimulus of cheap lands and low transportation rates the wheat product of this country has increased faster than the world's demand, so that there is a steady surplus.
The visible supply lately accumulated to the before unheard-of quantity of 81–million bushels as a consequence of favorable weather for sending the crop to market and because of the large quantities of old grain held over from the harvest of 1891. Although the turning point was anxiously watched when the flood of grain would begin to recede, elevators everywhere were reported to be full and all side tracks covered with cars.
Therefore farmers are exhorted to "escape from the thralldom of a single-crop idea." The great Northwest, farmers are told, must develop the dairying interest, and devote a larger share of attention to the raising of live stock, to sheep husbandry and hogs. In this last particular there is practically no limit to the field of remunerative enterprise, for, as we are reminded on the best Western authority, this business does not require the abandonment of other farm interests or any especial changes in the farmers' programme. Moreover, aside from a vast home consumption, all foreign countries are now open markets for American hog products.
Secretary Rusk in a recent report expressly points out the necessity for a diversification of crops throughout the country and for a close study of all markets abroad, so that our agricultural products shall be adapted to special demands. The inhabitable globe is now more than ever a unit, as facilities increase for cheap and rapid transportation to every part, and in the arts of agriculture means must be adapted to a specific end.
Engineer and Inventor, 1893
Diversified agriculture is the practice of growing a variety of crops and raising different types of livestock on the same farm. This strategy can help farmers to reduce their dependence on a single market, improve their soil health, and increase their resilience to environmental and economic shocks. In this article, we will explored the benefits of diversified agriculture in Canada, focusing on the historical period around 1893. We examine how diversified agriculture helped Canadian farmers to cope with the challenges of overproduction, low prices, and market competition in the late 19th century. We also discuss how diversified agriculture supported the development of other industries and sectors in Canada, such as food processing and transportation. Finally, we reflect on the relevance of diversified agriculture for Canada's present and future food security and sustainability.