Meet Mr. Gigian and Mr. Caciur

The story of two New Canadians who beat the drought

KEN LIDDELL April 1 1938

Meet Mr. Gigian and Mr. Caciur

The story of two New Canadians who beat the drought

KEN LIDDELL April 1 1938

Meet Mr. Gigian and Mr. Caciur

The story of two New Canadians who beat the drought


THE GOVERNMENT should do something about John Gigian and Jacob Caciur.

They deserve a medal for beating the drought in three straight falls.

Seven years ago, with $50 between them, they landed in Canada from Rumania. They knew no English, guarded closely railway tickets which would carry them to Western Canada.

Today, they operate a $3.000 a year market-garden business in the Saskatchewan dry belt. They also speak English, but they have little to say about drought.

They succeeded in years when others failed, by making water from a two-byfour river work for them.

They grew tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, turnips, beets and other things with the help of a homemade irrigation system, then sat back and waited for business to come to them.

It did.

Wholesalers and big department stores of Regina, capital of the province, daily sent trucks to the immigrants’ little gardens at Craven, twenty-five miles north of the city, in the historic Qu’Appelle Valley, to load up with fresh vegetables.

Mr. Gigian and Mr. Caciur watched their profits climb from $600 in 1935 to nearly $3,(XX) in 1937, worst farming year in the history of the province. It was big money to them. They were satisfied. People drove miles to buy their vegetables; there was no need to deliver.

Economic conditions drove the two young men from their central European homeland to Canada, so they were no strangers to hard times, but they were anxious to become successful in their adopted country.

Things were difficult at first. They obtained farm work, but the province was passing through the first year of drought and dust storms, and earnings of the two men were small.

However, they stuck to their jobs, studied the language of the country in their spare time, saved all the time, and in 1935 counted their dimes to find their joint capital had increased from $50 to $150.

Homemade Irrigation System

SO THEY rented ten acres of land, at $13 an acre, on valley fiats alongside the tiny and fast-drying Qu’Appelle River, about a mile from the village of Craven. Their capital was not enough to start

wheat farming; in fact they did not believe it would be fruitful to start on such a project, but they knew their soil, believed that with careful cultivation it would respond to other crops.

So they planted vegetables.

Rainfall was comparatively plentiful in 1935, but they knew better than to depend entirely upon the weather, so they purchased a three-horsepower engine, pumped water from the river, and sent it somewhat jerkily through a quarter-of-a-mile-long channel and numerous lateral ditches in their vegetable fields.

They harvested 40,000 cabbage plants, a couple of acres of potatoes, nearly three acres of carrots, cucumbers, beans, peas, etc. They sold the produce to stores and markets in the city at low prices, say $10 a ton for cabbage, and $7 for carrots, and on their first year’s work they earned a net profit of $600.

The following year. 1936. they were forced by conditions to depend more upon their homemade irrigation system for moisture, but they increased their acreage to fifteen acres, doubled their output of produce, and recorded a net profit of $2.000.

By this time they had become known in Regina, and merchants sent buyers out to bargain. Gigian and Caciur, seeing their business expand, spent $1,500 of their second year’s profits to install a better pumping system and to build greenhouses.

So it was that in 1937 they increased their acreage to twenty acres. With practically no rainfall at all, the gardeners pumped 2,000,000 gallons of water every ten hours from the river, to see it turn their produce into a net profit of nearly $3,000 for the year.

Like an oasis in the desert, the gardens brought hundreds of sight-seers, who turned to customers, throughout the year, but Mr. Gigian and Mr. Caciur went on in their own quiet way.

They batch together in a little hut. They employ two men in the growing season but at other times work the gardens themselves, using a tractor for cultivation, and hoes, rakes and garden tools the rest of the time.

Caciur, besides his garden work, serves as cook, turning out golden-crusted bread from an old-fashioned clay oven.

There is a cook stove in the shack, but Caciur prefers to cook in his clay oven in a strange little kitchen down in a root cellar.

He says it is much easier.

To make Lis bread he builds a big fire in the clay oven, rakes out the coals and ashes, puts in loaves of dough, shuts the oven and forgets about it.

“I come back from work,” explained Mr. Caciur. “Oven cool. Bread, she all done. Ix>ts o’ work. No time watch bread bake.”