Welcome to Vantage Points Flashback. We highlight stories that celebrate our rural leaders. Thank-you municipal councils and Manitoba Heritage for your support.
For thousands of years, I've been here. Near Mountainside, actually. Mostly, I grew grasses and medicines to feed the bison. The roots, under my mixed prairie grasses, were amazing. They went down as deep as 2 meters!
Then, in the late 1800s, humans started dragging sharp, heavy plowshares through me. Turning my beautiful plants upside down; opening me to the sun and wind. These humans were intent on growing wheat. Everywhere! I did my best to push up other plants. But the more I pushed, the more they plowed.
One of my farmers, though, thought about more than how much wheat their family could grow. A tall, quiet fella. Fawcett W. Ransom. Came to Canada in 1896, with two brothers. Fawcett was 16 when they arrived in Southwest Manitoba and applied for land. I was clearly his first love.
Coming from Bedford England, where the industrial revolution was creating big cities and displacing farmers, he and his brothers considered Turtle Mountain the land of milk and honey. Once settled, Fawcett married hard working May Arde. Together, they raised two children and a tangle of grandchildren to work and wander over me.
We grew good crops. Problem was, Fawcett had to deliver our harvested grain straight to an elevator. We had no storage. The elevators took full advantage, offering low prices; causing families and communities to struggle.
Fawcett would pace as he told me stories. About elevator and rail companies; how they worked with governments, against farmers. And how WWI changed things. More wheat was needed, so the government took over managing the wheat supply. For two years farmers were paid well. But after the war, government stepped away, and prices dropped like a slimy salamander.
Fawcett wasn't one to complain, or to sit around. He heard Saskatchewan farmers were organizing to keep more profits for themselves. Farmers were fed up across the prairies. And, Fawcett was all in. Banding together, farmers started their own elevator companies, in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. While May managed the farm, Fawcett attended meetings as distant as Calgary. Became the first secretary of Manitoba Pool Elevators. A position he held for 28 years!
Fawcett traveled around Manitoba tirelessly, meeting farmers, encouraging them to sign contracts with the Pool. He asked each farmer to give 2 cents per bushel to finance new elevators. Soon Manitoba Pool owned two thirds of all the elevators in Manitoba!
This spirit of cooperation overflowed. Citizens like Fawcett created Credit Unions, Co-op food stores, the National Farmers Union and the CCF, which eventually became the New Democratic Party. They were intent on protecting and enriching their own communities.
One more thing! My Fawcett, also, led a movement to save ME. It pained him to see me blowing in the wind. He felt it important to protect me for future farmers. So, he spoke at conferences, on radio and through newspapers, about the importance of soil conservation.
Eventually, Fawcett slowed down. Charming it was, watching him walk with grandchildren to a tree beside the creek. The kids'd eagerly find places on a long, horizontal branch, and listen to Grandpa as he told stories about his life, about the birds, the small animals; about me - the land of milk and honey!
Grounded Farmer was inspired by conversations with Alan Ransom and Ian Robson. Please learn about Turtle Mountain Souris Plains Heritage Association. Visit our website: www.vantagepoints.ca.
All stories in this series are found on Discover Westman’s Community Page or click HERE!
See ya’ later!
Please listen to the recording of this story with David Neufeld below: