Life and thoughts from a small-scale organic farm . . . and its farmers

This is a blog that explores ideas around the growing of food and community at Glen Valley Organic Farm.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Books of Interest for Co-operative Farmers

In case you're interested in co-operative farming and looking for some summer reading, here are a couple of books I would recommend.

First is Everett Baker's Saskatchewan: Portraits of an Era (2007, Fitzhenry and Whiteside). This is a collection of Everet Baker's photography that documented the birth and growth of Saskatchewan's Co-operative movement in the 1950s.

Part of the growth of the co-operative movement was the establishment of co-operative farms. The co-operative farms were established by the CCF government of the day in order to provide land to WWII veterans returning from war. The only remaining farm from the era is Matador Farm.

Baker's photography provides an insight into a period of the province's history during which rural life was vibrant and modernizing quickly. The photos show both the work life of the farms as well as the social events, many of which were part of other co-operative-related events and celebrations.

Of relevance to today's co-operative farms is the reasons for which the farms were established and for their eventual demise. The farms thrived because individuals were looking to farm. They declined when the young men married and were able to find land of their own. The primary function of the farms was to enable farming; when this function was no longer necessary, the farms began to close.

For anyone interested in further reading on the co-operative farm movement in Saskatchewan and Matador Farm, in particular, an article from the University of Saskatchewan's Co-op Studies program provides further insight.

The second book I am recommending is I Am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirkby (2007, Polkadot Press).
Kirkby's book is a compassionate account of her family's life at and eventual departure from the Fairholme Hutterite Colony in Manitoba. Her story provides a glimpse into a way of life that remains a mystery to most of us, despite the presence and proximity of many Hutterite colonies to prairie dwellers.

Of importance to those with an interest in co-operative farming, Kirkby demonstrates the challenges and benefits of community within the context of farm life. Despite the hierarchical and patriarchal structure of the colony and her family's difficulties within the community, Kirkby retains a strong connection with her Hutterite community. Compared against the co-operative farms of Saskatchewan, Kirkby's description of the Hutterite Colony shows a place where the community is as important as the farming itself.

If you have any summer reading suggestions, related to agriculture or not, feel free to suggest them in the comment section or e-mail me directly.

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