As always, weather conditions varied greatly from year to year resulting in widely different crop conditions. W. D. Albright of the Dominion Experimental Farm in Beaverlodge reported the following: for the Pouce Coupe area. The years from 1920 to 1922 were considered “Fair to Good” while 1923 was an “Excellent” year. The 1924 crop was “Fair” but both 1925 and 1926 rated as “Poor”. The poor 1926 crop was followed in 1927 by another “Excellent” one and the next five years, up to 1932, rated as either “Fair” or “Good”.
Not all the people farming in the Peace in the early 1930’s had come from an agricultural background. A study in 1934 by C.A. Dawson (no relation to George) included a listing of the previous occupations of over 300 farm operators in the BC and Alberta Peace. Of these, only 14 had come from an agricultural background, 20 were professional people (teachers, clergy, lawyers, surveyors) and 28 had owned their own businesses in some other place. There were 48 farm operators with a background in what Dawson called “stable occupations” such as blacksmiths, carpenters, mechanics and plumbers. These, of course, would find their skills in demand as the communities grew. The largest single group of farmers came from the clerical and office fields or from the Army and civil service. Some 114 from this group were farming in 1934 — 48 of them having served overseas with the Army. Interestingly enough, there were 32 railway employees as well. Semi-skilled (110) and unskilled labourers (45) made up the balance of the farm operators questioned, and this group included such interesting occupations as a bricklayer, a gardener, a jockey, a munitions worker, an oilfield worker and a single hobo.
No matter what his occupational background might be, if a farmer wanted to succeed he had to be prepared to put in long, hard hours of labour. The work cycle on each farm varied in detail, of course, but there is enough similarity between them that a typical year’s schedule can be identified, and Dawson did that in his study.
Break-up usually came between the last two weeks of March and the middle of April and signalled the beginning of another year’s work . Warm enough to work outside, but still too wet and muddy to do much else, this was the time to overhaul harness, machinery and other equipment. Seed grain would be carefully cleaned and made ready for planting. As soon as the fields were dry enough to work, usually between the 20th of April and the end of May, all the planting would be completed.
Even with all the seed in the ground, there was ploughing to be done for green feed and surface cultivation of summer fallow as a means of weed control. As soon as the weeds bloom, around the middle of June, they are ploughed under. New land is broken at this time and this work goes on until the two-month long haying season gets under way in mid-July. The first grain crops are ready for harvest in mid-August and the harvesting continues well through September if the weather co-operates. Threshing goes on from the middle of September until the middle of October at the same time as garden products are “put down” for the winter and maintenance is carried out on the house and outbuildings. Wood chopping and brush slashing fill in the idle moments in the late fall and early winter. Once winter arrives and snow covers the fields, attention switches to hauling grain to the nearest elevator and the farmer begins to see some income.
Not all farmers followed this routine, but if they didn’t finish the basic tasks on time, they were certainly not going to prosper. A missed opportunity could not be recovered, and any serious accident could delay a critical step in the process, leading to severe financial problems. A lazy farmer simply didn’t last very long at all in the business.