With the promise of a new life, free from persecution, poverty and oppression; early European settlers came to the prairie provinces as the chosen ones, used to hard work and even harsher climates. They believed in the land of opportunity, grateful for a second chance, a new beginning. Building a new life in a new promised land.
It's not too hard to imagine what those early settlers must have felt upon first arriving to this barren land here in the Alberta prairies. The fourth largest wave of European immigrants arrived by between 1897 through to 1929.
Settling the West
With titles like, Free Farms for the Million, the enticement of owning 160 acres seemed almost too good to be true. It was.
At times the land was unforgiving, beyond challenging, and yet for those that had the strength and perseverance, it proved to be a very rewarding life. Understanding the life of a farmer no matter what generation, you can’t help but be humbled by those that do so much for so many.
You only need to cast your eyes in any direction and take in the varying gentle slopes amid miles and miles of a vast landscape. You can't help but pause to take a deep breath as you look to a horizon that melds together the land and sky. Welcome to Canada’s big sky country!
Thousands upon thousands of farming acres, now entrusted to 5th generations, have continued with a dynamic and diverse farming tradition from their ancestors a century ago. Alberta makes up 31.3% of Canada’s farm area.
Railways and Horticulture a Settling Combination
In 1900, David Hysop, farmer/CPR claims adjuster, wrote the following letter to William Whyte, the CPR superintendent of the western lines.
“If you want to show how good the soil is, why not have gardens at the railway stations in which ﬂowers and vegetables can be grown? The company can supply the seeds, the station agents and the section foreman can look after the gardens and, if water is needed, the locomotives can supply it and it can be kept in barrels along the track. The vegetables and ﬂowers can be used in the dining cars and shown at fairs far and wide.”
Shortly after the letter, there were more than 44 CPR gardens from Brandon, Manitoba to Golden, British Columbia. By the 1912, these gardens numbered close to 1500 and the CPR was operating greenhouses at every major centre. Over the following years many of the CPR agents became Horticulturists. The gardens persisted in one form or another for the next 70 years, playing a pivotal role in the evolution of open park space in small towns on the Canadian prairies. Still, to this day, the only park spaces in many small towns are located on the site of the former CPR Gardens.
Skyscrapers, Cattle and Fields Forever
It's hard to believe that less than 45 minutes SE of the city of Calgary, you can feast your eyes on such stunning prairie landscapes.
For four years now, the Aspen Crossing Railway offers up a Prairie Tour train excursion, with a commitment to entertain, enliven as well as enlighten, visitors from around the world. Providing an opportunity to see up close and personal, Alberta’s extensive agricultural landscape that make it one of Canada’s 2nd largest agricultural producer and one of the world’s most productive agricultural economies. Railway history and horticulture/agriculture were an integral part of what helped shape and connect Canada.
When people travel to Alberta they may not even be aware that there's additional elements to this diverse province. That's why Aspen Crossing has devoted an entire rail excursion to help showcase a part of the vast Alberta prairie landscapes; how it came to be and what it means to the world of agriculture today.
Additionally, this journey includes a stop at the Mossleigh Grain Elevators known as Prairie Sentinels. With live musical entertainment and a good old-fashioned train robbery you'll love the fun of discovering big sky country. All Aboard!
To book your Prairie journey, CLICK HERE or Call: 1-866-440-3500