The Beatties of Gold Bar grew more tomatoes, squash, melons, cucumbers and corn than they could sell up and down the highway and so they often just gave the produce away. Williston Lake flooded out their fertile bottom land above Hudson Hope and put an end to those market gardens. Then there was Dan Williams, one of the few black Americans in the fur trade, who left the Hudson Bay Company and set up a small market garden near Taylor around 1875. In spite of a running battle with the HBC over ownership, Williams stayed on his bit of land and supplied fresh vegetables to the trading post and to people passing by on the Peace River.
As early as 1893 the quality of farm produce from the Peace was recognized far beyond the region itself. The Reverend John Gough Brick sent samples of wheat from the Alberta Peace to the Chicago World Fair of 1893 — and won first prize. Years later, Bob Cochrane won international acclaim as a grower of superb Timothy. Plant breeders such as William Simpson and Percy Clubine developed many new varieties of wheat and peas suited to the area. Simpson was awarded the title of World Rye King in 1946 and both he and Clubine brought a new sophistication to agriculture in the Peace. And there were the scientists and experimenters like William Albright at the Beaverlodge Research Station, patiently trying new varieties and techniques to tap the potential of the Peace River soils.
Hundreds of farmers who deserve to be famous took part in field trials of new seed types without much recognition for their efforts. Typically, the farmer would plant a small amount of a new variety, protect it as best he could from insects and rodents and then harvest it. The crop would be assessed and reported on and the best seed from it planted the next year, and so on. The results of these experiments were crucial in establishing the basis for sound growing practices for the area.
The Millers who established Rolla were the first settlers to come specifically to farm with no interest in trapping or trading, common sidelines for most new comers. In that respect, we can include them in our “famous farmers.” Our livestock industry also has a colourful past, but that story and the contributions of the Bentley family will have to wait for another time.