According to F. H. Kitto, FRGS, 145,000 square miles or 92,800,000 acres of land is included in the Peace River Country of BC and Alberta with a conservative estimate of 15,000,000 acres suitable for grain growing. When transportation is available most of this area will ship supplies in from and produce out to Vancouver, Prince Rupert, and perhaps Bella Coola. In BC there is an estimated 22,608,000 acres classed as being suitable for agriculture, and a recent conservative estimate places 5,000,000 of this in the BC Peace River District. Approximately one million acres in the district are now occupied by farmers, with more than one third cultivated.
About half of this cultivated area is in grain — barley, wheat, oats, flax and rye in that order. The remainder is in hay and pasture, summer fallow, forage seed and miscellaneous crops. Long-term average yields (bushels per acre) are estimated at 30 for barley, 20 for wheat, 40 for oats, 12 for flax and 25 for rye. The hay crop is estimated at 2 tons per acre. Average yields (pounds per acre) of commonly grown forage seeds are 150 for alfalfa and 300 for red clover. These forage seed yields are what can normally be expected under reasonably sound management practices.
Live stock production continues to increase each year and now totals 16,000 cattle and 25,000 hogs. Cattle are mainly of the beef and dual purpose type but the number of dairy cattle is increasing as growing urban population increases the demand for fluid milk. Sheep numbers are negligible, totaling less than 1,500. There is room for large-scale expansion in all lives stock enterprises.
Until a full survey has been made of the areas in the newer sections of the district which have been recently opened it is impossible to give an accurate estimate of farming land. Many acres of valley and parkland suitable for agriculture are being discovered as prospecting for oil, natural gas and coal progresses. Most of the valleys grow lush vegetation and are wide enough to be a very attractive proposition for mixed farming and ranching. Beekeeping is making headway in the Peace. The acreage yields per colony this year, which as not been the best, will be over 150 pounds. Some bee-yards have done exceptionally well and others, where one of our rare hailstorms hit, did not do so well.
The highest yield reported this year was in one of the Peace River Honey Company yards where one hive yielded 374 lbs. of honey. This company had 1,500 colonies scattered throughout the district.
Besides producing an excellent honey from the clover fields the benefit of the bees a pollinators is marked by increase in seed set. There is a Beekeeper’s Association at Dawson Creek and there are a number of apiarists with a few hives or up to several hundred. When we look into the future we can not help being optimistic. I am not a blind booster but after seeing the development that has taken place during over thirty years of close contact and twenty-five years continuous residence in the Peace River District. I would be a very pessimistic individual if I failed to see a wonderful future. This is no Eldorado but is a country that will, over a period of years, give good returns to anyone who will use good judgment and is not afraid of work. Some years our winters may be cold and long but they are usually bright and sunny and the cold is far more easily endured that the cold foggy weather of the coast region.
With the completion of the Pacific Great Eastern railway mixed farming should take a boost. Livestock thrive and are free of many diseases found in the more humid sections. Insect pests and plant diseases are negligible compared with warmer areas. If freight rates to Vancouver don’t go up there is no reason why the stock and poultry raisers to the south should not take the bulk of their feed from the Peace River district. Beef, port, eggs, and poultry have to be imported from other parts of Canada by the coastal cities and this could be a logical market for our produce. The opening of this market should mean prosperity for this section and could possible reduce the cost to be consumer. There is no district in the west capable of producing livestock of better quality or at less cost than right here.
The quality of the soil varies as does the weather but there is room for almost any type of farming. On the benches of the rivers, particularly the Peace, sweet corn with well-filled cobs ten inches long is grown regularly, and tomatoes ripened in quantity. Watermelons and cantaloupe are also ripened and cucumbers grown commercially. I do not wish to give the impression that this condition is general but there are places where it is done. The writer usually has all the vegetables he needs in his garden but cannot grown any of the items mentioned with any degree of certainty.
Comparing the Peace River District with other farming areas of the west the future looks very bright. Our markets are expanding, land can still be bought cheaply (Government land is still available for purchases at $2.50 to $5.00 per acre), taxes are low on agricultural land (this year .05 for general and 15.94 mills for school) and over head compares favorably with other farming sections. The prosperity of the Peace River Country is expanding rapidly. What the future holds in store is in the hands of the people. Providence has done his share and with more people this area can become one of the brightest spots in Canada. There is still time to grow with the country and help shape its destiny, and at the same time earn a prosperous living.