IT IS not likely that the name of Louis Hébert will give you a thrill; in fact, it is not likely that you ever heard of him—for Louis landed in Quebec in the year of grace 1617, an obscure French farmer, armed with a rude spade, fortified by a stout heart, and commenced to clear away and cultivate what is now part of that venerable city’s upper town. But his name should live, not because he was a pioneer, nor because he planted apple trees, but because he was Canada’s first real farmer. It is true that twelve years before a party of settlers under de Monts attempted agriculture and grew small patches of maize, pumpkins and beans at Port Royal, and that Poutrincourt brought cows to Canada in 1606. These earnest people, however, were amateurs. Hébert was the real thing, and from his first spade-turned furrow has developed the very life and foundation of our Dominion.
Louis would have turned in his simple peasant grave could he have foreseen that little more than three hundred years later there would be under cultivation in this country more than 53,000,000 acres; that the annual value of Canadian field crops would total $1,153,395,000, and that the gross agricultural wealth in this country including the current crop, of course, exceeds seven and one half billions of dollars.
Statistics are dry rations, but they contain plenty of nutriment. They are useful, too, in posing the fellow who says he is a merchant, or a plumber or a member of any other occupation or profession, and therefore cannot see how the welfare of the farmer affects him. Occasionally, too, they can be interesting, as when, for instance, they show that, for every thousand acres under cultivation two hundred years ago, there are now a million; that, in the same space of time, livestock has increased from 58,964 to nearly twenty-one million, and that the annual production of wheat, barley, oats, peas and corn has grown from less than one-half million bushels, to nine hundred and nine and one half million bushels. It is not the purpose of this article, however, to describe in detail the growth and development of agriculture in Canada, but rather to tell what is being done for those engaged in this key industry by the Federal Government—the Department of Agriculture—at Ottawa.
The man directly responsible for the policy of the Department of Agriculture is the minister—Hon. W. R. Motherwell. And it is significant that Mr. Motherwell is a practical farmer—not a man who has inherited broad, producing acres, but a pioneer, a homesteader, who broke virgin soil, made it produce and made it pay.
He built his own home on the Saskatchewan prairie, stone by stone, with the aid of another man. He built his career, stone by stone of solid achievement. As Provincial Minister of Agriculture he gave Saskatchewan the best farming administration it had ever known. He was one of the moving spirits behind the formation of the Grain Growers’ Association, and its first president. All his thought and energy then, as to-day, were bent upon improving and elevating the business of farming. He is a temperate man, not brilliant, perhaps, in a flashy sense, but with a native intelligence that carries him over the road to his successive goals, as surely, as inexorably, as the ox team with which he trekked in from Brandon to the Abernethy district forty-four years ago.
He is practical, and sound, because he is what he is—a practical farmer who made a success of applying scientific methods to his own land before setting out to teach others.
No department of government, however, can be explained in terms of one minister and, in the case of the Department of Agriculture, the qualities of leadership possessed by its deputy minister, Dr. J. H. Grisdale, have had a great deal to do with its success. Dr. Grisdales’ work as an administrator has won for him a reputation that extends to every rural corner of the Dominion.
Answering the Gentleman From Missouri
WHEN the department was established in 1868, it was cluttered with barnacles; that is, it was responsible for many functions by no means agricultural, but, one by one, they were lopped off, until to-day it concerns itself solely with agriculture.
The farmer is a being who takes little upon trust, but practical demonstration hits home every time, provided that demonstration is not too sudden or startling, or contrary to deeply-rooted conviction. He wants to be shown, and that is the thing the Department of Agriculture sets out to do. As for example, the affair of the rival cheese factories.
In 1912 two small cheese factories, less than a mile apart, were in violent competition with each other at the village of Finch, Ontario. Antagonism was keen, and there was bitter feeling between the adherents of each, to the detriment of the dairy farmers of the district generally. For a considerable time the Government had felt the need of a place wherein to test the results of its experiments in cheese-making and in the marketing of milk and cream, and to clinch the value of its conclusions by subjecting them to actual competitive business conditions. So it bought out the rivals, joined their activities under one roof, put the joint concern in charge of the Dairy Branch of the department, added building and equipment and named it the Finch Dairy Station.
The objectives of the station, briefly, were to control and operate a model combined cheese factory, creamery, and milk and cream shipping station, and to study the economics of dairy factory operation, by actual contact with the problems which confronted other dairy manufacturers throughout the Dominion.
There is not space to enter into the details of its thirteen years of operation, but the results are enlightening. All of the purposes for which the station was established were carried out. It was conducted just as any other business, and the benefit of its experience was made available to manufacturers and dairymen throughout Canada without cost to them.
When the first joint meeting to discuss the taking over of the old factories was held, the rival factions kept to opposite sides of the meeting hall. When the station was sold by the Government to private enterprise in January, 1925, all of the dairy farmers of the district were its patrons. It kept running the year round, thus providing a market for winter milk. In 1912 the quantity of milk received was about two million pounds. This had increased until the receipt in 1924 was more than eleven and one quarter million pounds. An uneconomic situation —and hundreds of similar ones exist in this country—was wiped out, and the prosperity of a countryside assured.
The market for the patron’s output was widened to include milk and cream shipments as well as cheese, the possibility of winter operation at a profit was proven sound, and it was possible to pay patrons, in premiums, over a period of eight years, one hundred thousand dollars more than they would have received had they continued to make cheese only.
With the extra equipment installed, it was possible immediately to supply the market with the product which at the moment was most in demand, thereby securing the best prices always. Improved methods of manufacture of dollars and cents value to the trade throughout Canada were demonstrated commercially; and, although patrons were charged full rates for manufacturing and received no undue advantage because of government operation, the whole experiment did not cost the tax-payers of Canada one cent.
After charging the account with all expenditures, including the price paid for the two old factories, and compensation for another that was closed, and every item of expense on both capital and maintenance account, the final disposal of the factory left a balance to the good. So much for government ownership under the Dairy Branch of the Federal Department of Agriculture.
Translating Science into Dollars and Cents
THE key to the whole government effort to provide service to agriculture is found in this method of practice demonstration. When it comes to husbandry, tests are carried out on the experimental farms, stations and sub-stations scattered across the country from ocean to ocean. The central and most important experimental farm is at Ottawa. Others are at Nappan, Nova Scotia, Brandon, Manitoba, Indian Head, Saskatchewan, and Agassiz, British Columbia. Prince Edward Island has one experimental station. Nova Scotia has two and New Brunswick one. Quebec has five, Ontario three, Manitoba two, Saskatchewan four, Alberta three, and British Columbia four. In addition to these, are the sub-stations for minor experiments and observation, at Beaver Lodge, Fort Vermilion, and Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Betsiamites, Quebec, and Swede Creek, Yukon Territory, and at Fort Smith, Fort Resolution and Fort Providence, in the North West Territory, which are conducted by the Mission Fathers.
The necessity for the existence of these experimental farms can be gauged by the statement of E. S. Archibald, Director of the Government Experimental Farms, who said recently that the annual losses in Canadian field crops alone reach an appalling total.
Grain smuts cause a yearly loss of upwards of twelve million dollars. Grain rusts tap the farmer for five to fifty million annually and potato losses run from two to five million. Other losses are due to ignorance, in certain sections, as to moisture control or cultural methods, or to lack of suitable types and varieties of crops. Some parts of Canada which used to produce high crops have slumped alarmingly.
In some instances, no satisfactory remedy for the loss has been discovered; in others, ultimate causes, both natural and human, have been ferreted out and millions saved to the farming industry. On the one hand, squads of chemists, bacteriologists, pathologists, botanists, entomologists, agrostologists and cerealists are constantly engaged in digging up new knowledge, while, on the other, a small army of field men—trained demonstrators, practical farmers and in some cases the scientists
themselves—is constantly employed in teaching the individual farmer how to apply that knowledge.
It is obvious that the farmers cannot afford to devote their land to experimentation. They must produce, however little. So the government does the experimenting for them, through the experimental farms. At present more than three thousand separate main experiments are being carried out, some of them running over a period of years, and embracing subjects running all the way from livestock breeding and dairying, to the study of seeds and the demonstration of farm economics.
Detail of the full activities of the experimental farms would fill many volumes, but an excellent illustration of the value of their work lies in the now world-famous Marquis wheat, developed after years of patient endeavor by Dr. William Saunders. This wheat, secured by crossing Red Fife and a variety from India which had the qualities lacking in the Canadian product, has brought untold millions of dollars to Canadian farmers, and has increased the yield of the prairies by seventy-five million bushels annually. In addition, through the quality of earlier maturing it has made possible the cultivation of vast areas in the north, on which it was not practicable to grow Red Fife.
But the end is not yet. There is rising upon the agricultural horizon a new star—Garnet wheat— which promises in many areas, to out-do even Marquis. This child of Onega—a wheat from near Archangel, Russia—and Gehun—a wheat obtained 11,000 feet up in the Indian Himalayas—and various other strains introduced through long years of cross-breeding and elimination, has a yield approximately the same as that of Marquis, with the added advantage that it matures from one to two weeks before Marquis. It is now awaiting the result of the final milling and baking tests before being announced to the world. If its accomplishments are such as its sponsors believe, the effect will be tremendous, for not only will it lessen the risk of crop destruction by inclement weather, insects and fungus infestation, but it will open up for cultivation vast territories of the north.
Will You Have a Cucumber or an Aeroplane?
THE service given the farmer is almost without bounds. If he wishes to grow certain vegetables and is in doubt as to the kind which will do best in his particular soil, by application to the department, he may have this doubt solved and be given advice based, upon not one, but perhaps dozens of tests, thus assuring him success at the first planting.
The horticulturist need not guess as to the best types of blooms. In the government greenhouses he may see the eulled-out— one might almost say, the distilled—result of thousands of crosses brought finally to a limited number of perfect strains. If he is in a part of Canada distant from the greenhouses he can get the information by writing for it, and the seeds to boot, if he wishes. Government - bred cucumbers, although only twelve to the basket, have brought the same market price as outside baskets containing twenty; and they are available to everyone with a genuine wish to grow them.
No matter is too large nor too small for the attention of the department. It will superintend the growing of grass on lawns and golf courses. It will set airplanes winging through space, armed with spore traps to prove that the crop*destroying rust is carried miles high through the air, and it will advise you as to the best means of combating parasites in laying hens, which brings us to the subject of poultry raising in Canada and the department’s relation thereto.
You may not be interested in poultry, beyond being assured that the breakfast egg is all that an egg should be, or that the crisp brown skin of a roasted fowl does not conceal the stringy flesh of a barnyard grandfather; but you are a Canadian, therefore you will be interested to know that at the Second World Poultry Congress, held at Barcelona, Spain, in 1924, Canadian birds carried off the honors. It was a source of amazement to poultrymen from all parts of the globe that, after a journey over thousands of miles of land and sea, despite climatic changes, numerous handlings and an alien atmosphere, not a single Canadian bird was lost—a record not approached by any other country. The appearance of our native birds, fresh, virile, in the pink of health, after such an ordeal, dissipated forever the myth that good poultry cannot be raised in a cold climate. *
Individual poultry men had a good deal to do with this success, but it is doubtful if it would have been possible had it not been for the long years spent by the Poultry Division of the department, in educating the producer in the science of poultry breeding. We have the opinion of the government experts that poultry raising can be one of the most profitable branches of agriculture, but poultry raising takes knowledge and the scientific application of that knowledge. That is where the Poultry Division comes in and here, as in the other phases of the department’s work, the ramifications are almost endless. If your chickens have the colic, consult the department. The Poultry Division knows the cure. If your eggs refuse to hatch, or if your hens refuse to lay, consult the department. The Poultry Division will tell you what’s the matter; better still, it will tell you where you can find better hens and better eggs, for that's its business.
Incidentally, it has proven itself a master of that business, for, thanks to the Canadian success at Barcelona, the next World Poultry Congress is to be held at Ottawa in 1927.
Keeping an Eye on Our Exports
SOMETHING of the work of the Dairy Branch of the department has been told, but it has other activities well worth observing. For example, during the hot weather months—that is, from May to September, inclusive, arrangements are made by the government with the railways for the operation of iced cars over specified routes, for the transport of perishable fruit, and dairy products. Refrigerator car inspectors are maintained at strategic points, to report on the quantities shipped, condition of packages, manner of stowage, condition and temperature of the cars, and the amount of ice remaining in the bunkers on arrival at destination.
In addition, to look after Canadian exports of perishable products, and so assist in building and maintaining the prestige of Canadian foreign trade, cargo inspectors keep vigilant watch at our seaports, reporting on the condition and stowage of consignments delivered to the steamers. When goods for the United Kingdom arrive at their destination overseas, the ships are met by other representatives of the Dairy Branch, who take note of the condition of the shipments on arrival, and their manner of discharge. Undesirable conditions are taken up with those responsible, in order to secure correction or redress.
A Canadian cargo inspector stationed at Glasgow, recently noticed, during the discharge from a ship of boxes of Damsons from the Niagara Peninsula, that boxes were being crushed at the ends nearest the ropes. He brought this to the attention of the boss stevedore, who immediately had it rectified through better packing. Later, through the same means, greater care was secured in landing a consignment of butter and cheese.
This service extends further. A consignment of cheese arrived in London, and due to unnecessary transhipments, and prolonged exposure on the dock under a hot sun, the cheese became heated and grease ran from the boxes. The inspector notified the department which in turn wrote the Canadian shippers, who thus had direct and disinterested information as to the treatment of their goods, and were able to demand greater watchfulness on the part of their agents abroad. A somewhat similar case was that in which a large shipment of Canadian apples was held on the quay for eleven days. The inspector reported, and the information that four hundred barrels had slacked up considerably and had deteriorated in quality was passed to the exporters. Thus, it was possible directly to place the responsibility.
The same thing occurred at Liverpool with a shipment of butter, and it is significant that the value of this inspector’s report lay in the fact that he quoted the data of the inspector at the port of shipment-—Montreal—which showed that the butter had been adequately stowed and cooled. The thermograph—one is placed by the government in every ship carrying Canadian perishable cargo—proved that a proper temperature was maintained throughout the voyage. Yet the butter lay on the quay under a hot sun for six days after being landed.
This is the sort of service that enables our exporters to claim and obtain compensation, instead of suffering heavy loss through inability to place the fault. The same principle applies to the inspection of Canadian meats and bacon.
In Canada, where goods are in transit, the inspection is equally rigorous. Inspectors report that one car, carrying butter, had been used for transporting meat and that the floor was covered with scrap paper and pieces of decayed meat. The matter was taken up by the department with the railroad company, which expressed regret and a promise to ensure better equipment in the future. Similar action was taken regarding a car of poorly stowed cheese and eggs with the result that the transportation authorities almost immediately admitted responsibility, and compensation was paid without demur.
Still other inspectors protect the Canadian consumer by examining print butter for weight and proper marking, and analyzing samples to guard against adulteration with water and foreign fats. Lectures are given and posters distributed demonstrating the food value of milk and its products; plans and specifications for cheese factories, creameries, farm dairies and small cold storages are supplied free upon request; the Division of Dairy Research investigates subjects such as the origin and cause of butter mold, and suggests sure remedies, and information of general and specific interest to the industry generally is gathered and widely disseminated free of charge.
During the British Empire Exhibition in 1924, the department entered into an agreement with a great firm of London caterers to advertise on their bills of fare only ‘Canadian Cheddar Cheese’ in all of their four hundred odd restaurants and tea shops, and at the exhibition, where they did most of the catering. As a direct result hundreds of thousands of people knowingly ate Canadian cheese for the first time, and liked it. After adding all cost of handling, shipping, storage and other expenses to the purchase price, there remained a credit balance from the sales to this one firm, of $1,076.80 in favor of the department.
The War Against Disease
IT SHOULD be a matter of pride to Canadians that in a country so essentially agricultural, we should be one of the few stock-raising nations which has not been visited by that terrible scourge, foot-and-mouth disease. For this we have to thank mainly the unceasing vigilance and energetic preventive measures of the Health of Animals Branch of the Department of Agriculture.
I mention foot-and-mouth disease specifically because of its constant menace, the economic calamity that its penetration would bring about, and the splendid position that Canada holds in consequence of the success of the department’s efforts to keep it out of the country.
The only case of the disease that ever set foot on our soil occurred in 1868, when an animal just landed from the British Isles was detected in the pen and destroyed at once, at the quarantine station at Point Levis, Quebec. In 1908, there was an outbreak in New York State, along the Niagara Peninsula, and Canadian officials spent sleepless nights and many anxious months, before the danger of importing it passed. A large number of men patrolled the border, day and night. Every kind of meat, including dressed turkey and fowl, was prohibited. Even railway dining cars had to leave their meat south of the border before being allowed to cross. The international foot bridge at Niagara Falls was covered inches thick in sawdust soaked with phenol, a powerful disinfectant, and any pedestrian who bore the faintest suggestion about him of drover or cattleman ruthlessly was barred from entering Canada. All livestock was prohibited from entering, and this extended even to canaries. One night a rowboat coming from Grand Island in the Niagara River to the Canadian shore was seized by the watchful patrol, and its cargo confiscated. It consisted of a number of gamecocks destined to furnish clandestine amusement to residents of the border.
To-day, no susceptible livestock of any description may enter Canada from any country, or state of the United States, known to be tainted with this terrible animal malady. Importation is prohibited, also, of hay, straw, forage, mill feed and other livestock food from proscribed countries, and this measure applies even to merchandise packed in straw and other fodders, except where this has been certified free from exposure to infection, by veterinary experts officially authorized by their respective governments. When this measure of protection was put into force considerable opposition was aroused, for it meant the holding up of large shipments of imports, due to ignorance of the order. It became necessary to give a large measure of publicity to the regulation at home and abroad, and the co-operation of steamship companies was requested, h or a time the situation— which included congestion at our ports due to the amount of merchandise held up for return -was relieved by turning the packing and then allowing entry of the goods. But this was not enough, and the losses involved, serious though they were, were felt to be trivial compared with what would ensue in Canada with the admission of the disease. So the lid was jammed on tight. Shippers in other countries, at last realizing that they must conform, in their packing, to our requirements, and shipments refused entry rapidly are decreasing.
To illustrate by what apparently mysterious means animal disease may be introduced, an outbreak of hog cholera occurred, some years ago, in a Canadian area which formerly had been free of the disease. The animals had not been in contact with infected swine, their food had been locally produced, and the owners and the federal authorities, who were called in to fight it, were at a loss to place the origin. Then someone recollected that some time before a car of hogs from the United States in transit through Canada had been derailed nearby. The animals had been put in adjacent pens until the tracks were cleared, and then taken on. Short as the time was, it was sufficient for the ground to become contaminated and the next Canadian swine to enter the pens were the victims.
Combating the Scourge of Tuberculosis
THE department has made rabies, anthrax, and scabies comparatively unknown in Canada, and it is now paying particular attention to controlling bovine tuberculosis, which has attacked thousands of animals throughout the Dominion. The most powerful weapon of the government is inoculation of suspected herds with tuberculine, and the immediate destruction of animals that react to it, under official supervision.
The tuberculine, manufactured at the government laboratories, is standard in quality, and is injected into the skin of the animal’s tail. Reaction takes place within seventy-two hours in the form of a swelling at the point of injection, and while this reaction indicates the presence of the disease it does not tell how seriously it has progressed. This is determined only when the beast is slaughtered. Contrary to popular belief, the flesh of tuberculous cattle is fit for human consumption, provided the disease is localized, and the lesions can be removed. If, in the opinion of the government inspectors who examine the carcass, it is safe and wholesome meat, the owner receives the proceeds of the sale, as well as the government indemnity paid on each beast destroyed.
The government goes about this vitally important business of stamping out bovine tuberculosis in three ways. You are, we will assume, the owner of an ordinary herd and you find indications of the tubercular scourge among your beasts. You want the government to rid your herd of it, and you make application to have this done. Within a very short time from the day your application is received by the Department of Agriculture, along come officials inspectors who proceed to give your herd the tests just described. The beasts with swollen tails are immediately slaughtered and then the government men subject the entire plant and equipment of your farm to a cleaning and disinfecting process which leaves it almost as aseptic as a surgeon’s knife. In this case, the only compensation you receive for your slaughtered stock is what the carcass will fetch as meat.
Suppose, though, you are the owner of a herd of pure-breeding. In this case, the process of testing and slaughtering is first carried out and compensation paid for the beasts which have to be killed. After this, comes two annual tests to see whether absolute cleanliness prevails in your barns and other property (or, if you prefer it, three semi-annual tests). When these have been made, the government issues an accredited herd certificate, good for one year from issue.
It is easy to imagine what the value of such a certificate will be to you; with what a sense of confidence your product will be purchased. As a matter of fact, this bill of health will be accepted, with out question, by any government in the world. No wonder these documents are eagerly sought after.
Which has made it possible for the third, and more general plan, to be put into operation. In this case, two thirds of the cattle owners in a territory apply to the department for a testing of their herds. Their request is forwarded, in writing, through the Provincial Minister of Agriculture, to the Federal Minister, and action is taken.
This action takes the form, in the first place, of putting the territory under an utterly rigid quarantine. A number of Federal inspectors take charge of the whole district and test every individual cow, calf, and bull within it. After the infected animals are weeded out, the work of disinfection is commenced and goes on until there isn’t an atom of material, likely to afford a cozy breeding place to tuberculosis bacilli, left in the place. Then, and not until then, is compensation paid.
Such sweeping measure have succeeded in ridding whole areas of this disease, and the value of this kind of work is so generally recognized that it is impossible, with present funds and equipment, to take care of all the requests that come in.
Of course, this is only the barest outline of what the Department of Agriculture is doing to combat the tuberculosis scourge, but the fact that in 1925 there were 1,675 herds of cattle which the government had pronounced absolutely free from any trace of tuberculosis, that 2,100 herds were in the process of being made free of it, and 312 applications for eradicatory treatment were on file, is proof that this work is enormous in its scope and sweepingly successful in its results.
In addition to this type of field work, the Pathological Division, with its biological laboratory and research stations, constantly is making experiments and tests that provide the technical data on the basis of which the field force operates.
Close supervision is maintained by the department over public stockyards and stock cars. Railroad companies are required to keep the premises through which live stock pass sanitary at all times and to systematically clean and disinfect them under the personal supervision of the officers of the department. With every shipment of Canadian cattle overseas goes a qualified veterinarian, and the fact that more than fifty-three thou and animals left Canada for the British market last year, and not one was rejected for disease by the British officers, is a fair indication of the health of Canadian livestock generally.
Throttling the Bug Battalions
ONE of the most important branches of the department is the Entomological Branch.
Is an unknown insect decimating your rose bushes? Send a sample to this branch and you will receive not only identification of the pest, but advice as to its eradication. Are great tracts of timber being laid waste through the encroachment of the spruce bud-worm? It is likely that you will find actively on the job, a corps of Government experts working tirelessly to combat them.
Some time ago MacLean’s published an article on the work of this Branch which recounted in detail how damage amounting to billions of dollars had been done to the forests, field crops and gardens of the Dominion by insect pests, and how the department through unceasing vigilance and endeavor annually prevented the loss of millions more. This work is so important that it is not possible in the scope of this article to do it adequate justice. It can only indicate the tremendous importance and effect of it upon the welfare of our agriculturalists and lumbermen.
In the work of suppression of foreign pests, alone, it is necessary annually to inspect more than six thousand consignments, and to issue permits for the admission to Canada of more than twenty-two million plants, and when to this is added responsibility for the fighting of the hordes of formidable little insect enemies in every part of the Dominion, it will be seen that the task is indeed colossal. Yet, year by year, the effect of the work increasingly is felt, and although the time probably never will come when the department will be ahead of the game, it can be said that a bulwark is being built, without which the doom of all growing things from ocean to ocean would be certain and swift.
Keeping the Cattle-breeder on the Job
THE future of the business of producing livestock and livestock products is dependent, absolutely, upon better breeding. And this is where the Live Stock Branch of the Department comes in; Its mission is to make better breeding easy for the farmer. In every conceivable way it holds before his eyes the ideal of scrub elimination, of continual herd improvement. This ideal is fostered and encouraged by two very practical methods —the establishment of government breeding stations, where the best type of animal can be secured for breeding purposes at a nominal stud fee, and by the formation and the assistance of breeding clubs in every agricultural centre. More than this, if the department knows of a section where pure-bred sires are not available, it loans its pedigree bulls to the farmer who needs them. If the breeder is so situated that he can’t get to a market for blooded stock without prohibitive expense, the government appoints itself his personal representative and buys the stock for him.
The department keeps its paternal eye on a thousand other subjects, too. It keeps the producer up-to-date on market prices and conditions by means of newsletters and radio-broadcasts; it furnishes exhibits to fairs and exhibitions; it offers prizes for pure bred rams; it gets hold of the boys and girls of the farm and induces them to form swine-clubs. In fact, if there is any way in which good business methods and scientific principles of cattle, poultry and swine raising can be brought to the notice of the Canadian agriculturist which the Live Stock Branch of the department doesn’t use, it is because it hasn’t heard of it. And its ears are very wide open for the reception of new ideas, most of the time.
New Eggs for Old
ONE of these new ideas, and a very valuable one it has turned out to be, concerned the grading of eggs. Time was when the housewife, going into a grocery store, was at the mercy of the grocer’s word. If that worthy told her that he was putting a dozen new-laid eggs in a bag for her, and that these eggs would cost her $1.00 for the dozen, she sighed and trusted him—to her sorrow, at times. It is easy to believe that under these conditions she didn’t purchase any more eggs than she was obliged to. Nor was the grocer always to blame, for he, in his turn, had to depend on some one else’s word.
So, in 1923, the Live Stock branch decided to do something about this egg business. It was instrumental in causing Federal legislation to be passed by which certain standards were set up and government inspectors appointed to see to it that these standards were adhered to, under penalty of prosecution.
Now, the inspection of every case of eggs offered for sale in the Dominion would be a pretty tall job, and this, of course, can’t be done; but all interprovincial and import shipments are examined to see that they conform to the standards marked by the dealers on the containers, and no store-keeper knows just when Federal officials are going to descend upon his place of business to see that’ his chronological accuracy, as exhibited by the figures on his price announcements, has not deteriorated since their last visit.
That this sharp checking up of the egg situation has been of benefit to all concerned, producers and distributors as well as consumers, is indicated by the fact that the annual per capita consumption of eggs in Canada has increased from sixteen to twenty-six dozen since government inspection became effective.
All this intensely concentrated urging and supervision has its effect on the whole people of the Dominion just as much as it has on the stock breeder, for the prosperity of the country is, to a large extent, dependent upon the reputation of our agricultural products in other countries.
Purifying the Seed Business
BEFORE the Seed Branch of the department got into its stride, conditions with regard to seed production were very bad indeed. The provinces were flooded with seeds, foul with noxious weed-seeds; flour mill by-products and commercial feeding stuffs were adulterated with useless materials (often containing sufficient quantities of harmful weed seeds to cause the death of livestock); faulty grinding left many vital weed-seeds, to be later returned to the earth through manure, and to pollute the farms of purchasers of ground feeding stuffs. The makers of low grade commercial fertilizer were permitted to give spurious information regarding the chemical analysis of their products, and the farmer paid heavy toll in consequence.
All this is changed, now. The growing of superior seeds for domestic requirements and export is encouraged; adulteration of flour-mill by-products and commercial feeding-stuffs is prevented, and all material sold as fertilizer is inspected to see that it conforms to the standard government chemical content. By these, and countless other means, the seed grower now commands a premium in the market in proportion to the quality of his products, and the Canadian farmer is guaranteed a certain definite quality when he buys.
Guarding the Reputation of Canada’s Fruit
IN THE last few years, the reputation of Canada’s fruit has gone up by leaps and bounds. It is safe to say that, to-day, Canada is recognized as producing fruit second to none in the world and better than most. And this reputation the Fruit Branch of the department guards jealously and vigilantly.
One of its main activities is the important one of constant and scrupulous inspection. Inspectors are stationed at all producing districts, marketing centres and points, to scrutinize all fruit and vegetables which they come across—and the scrutiny is a searching one. When these inspectors find a grower’s product falling below a certain standard he is warned—the first time. A second offence is sharply penalized.
The Fruit Branch isn’t content, merely to see that fruit and vegetables are grown properly, it is determined that they shall be transported in such shape as to ensure the arrival of the product in perfectly fresh, saleable condition. To this end numerous tests of cars and cooling and refrigerating systems are made to find out what method is best, both for the industry as a whole and for particular localities and hauls. The fruit men, too, work hand in hand with the railways and secure hearty co-operation, especially in the vexed and difficult question of freight-rate adjustments.
What this means to the country is neatly illustrated by what happened in the case of the potato crop which froze in the ground in the Prairie Provinces. Here was the situation: Just over the border in Minnesota and North Dakota, was a splendid crop, eagerly waiting a chance to jump in, but the Maritime Provinces also had a surplus for which no market could be found, a situation aggravated by the existence of the British embargo. Freight rates from the Maritimes to the Prairies were higher than import rates, plus duty, from the States.
This was the situation when the Department of Agriculture decided to take a hand. It placed its views before the freight traffic heads of the railways in Montreal, with the result that, twenty-four hours later, freight-cars were hauling Maritime potatoes west at very special, very much reduced rates.
To keep interest in Canadian fruit at its keenest, the Fruit fellows have gone into the publishing business and issue a monthly Fruit and Vegetables Crop Report; by them Canadian cooks of great cunning in the art are sent to fairs and exhibitions, hygiene and cooking schools, to demonstrate the best methods of preparing and canning vegetables; they are constantly spurring on the growers to enter their fruit in competitions abroad; and they work day and night at the job of fostering the co-operative marketing of fruit and vegetables.
For some years, there has been a falling off in per capita apple consumption in the Dominion. The Department has not been closing its eyes to the situation. Every effort has been made to determine the cause and correct the effect. Early in its investigations, the Department came to the conclusion that because a barrel of apples would not fit conveniently into a modern apartment or flat, still less a hall-bedroom, therefore people who lived in modern apartments, flats or hall-bedrooms (and the number increases steadily ) would not buy barrels of apples. The same idea applied to large boxes of apples. So the Department conducted an experiment. It had a quantity of good dessert apples put up in small half boxes and exhibited for a day in the window of a large Montreal retail store. The following day, they were put on sale and rapidly sold out the majority of sales being to people living as described. This information immediately was passed on to the trade, and it is now possible to secure apples and other fruit in more compact containers.
It has long been the notion of prairie farmers that fruit will not grow on the prairie, but for some years the Fruit Branch, through its experiments has been proving otherwise. At Morden, Manitoba, over four hundred varieties of standard apples were tested, and the results made known, and to-day the superintendents of experimental farms and stations all over the prairies are receiving inquiries. The movement is spreading to the planting of ornamental shrubs, hedges and flower plots, so the dream of a prairie bright with blooms is not beyond the range of the future.
The One Question Without an Answer
IT IS possible to get expert advice and authentic information on every phase of practical agriculture from bee-keeping to the growing of wheat, from the Publications Branch of the Department of Agriculture. It will tell you how and why to use cheese; give you recipes for homemade frozen desserts; teach you to control the apple maggot; how to enter your poultry in egg-laying contests; how to discover the effect of grain growing on the nitrogen content of your soil; how to dry, can and store fruit and vegetables; how to reduce the meat bill; what is contained in the fertilizer you use, and almost anything else you want to know. The information is sent free upon request, in pamphlet form. You can even find out the amount bet during the year on Canadian race tracks —for, by some colossal humorist’s edict, the supervision of race track betting is left to the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture.
There is one question, however, for which the Department has no answer. Why is it, that in an essentially agricultural Dominion the most important department of the government, agriculture, is housed in eighteen or twenty entirely inadequate and widely scattered buildings in Ottawa, none of which affords the advantages that a consolidated, modern departmental building would afford? Surely the tremendous saving effected annually by the work of that department would justify the expenditure on housing more in keeping with our dignity and efficiency as one of the leading agricultural countries of the globe!