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“The Pioneer Farmer - To become established in early Upper Canada, settlers needed a knowledge of agriculture, a willingness to endure hardships and a love of the soil. The German Plain Folk of New York State and Pennsylvania had such qualities. Most of Colchester's settlers were of German origin, and had established excellent methods of cultivation and animal husbandry with some knowledge of Indian agriculture and plants native to this continent.” p51

Catherine Anne Wilson. Being Neighbours. 2022

"In the early days when help was scarce, the crop was harvested by 'bees' - all the farmers coming together to harvest each others' crops. This method of overcoming labor shortages was common practice, becoming a custom with its own traditions. The men gathered outside for the work, and the women prepared bounteous meals all day (an attraction one would not want to miss.) Threshing bees were the most prevalent, but there were also bees for sawing, wood cutting, slaughtering and butchering, silo filling and barn raisings. In 1904, the Woodmen Lodge gathered to hew sills for the new Woodmen's Hall to be erected in Colchester Village. Bees disappeared when mechanization made it possible for farmers to do many things alone. Today, two farmers will work together, each contributing specialized machinery and their own labor to tasks which cannot be done alone.” p54


In her book, “Being Neighbours”, Catharine Wilson has examined the diaries of over 100 Southern Ontario farmers between the years 1830-1960. The book gives a glimpse into the lives of farmers working together in bees and the subtle politics of mutual dependancy. “Being Neighbours” is available for research at the HEIRS library. (Catharine Anne Wilson, FRSC, is the Francis and Ruth Redelmeier Professor in Rural History at the University of Guelph and founder and director of the Rural Diary Archive website.)


“In 1791 British Colonial Governor John Graves Simcoe helped establish the first Agricultural Societies through which settlers shared information to improve production. Exhibitions of crops, livestock and handcrafts were held, leading to the custom of county fairs.” p58


“In 1919, 44 members formed The Harrow Farmers' Co-operative Association. Officers included: President T. R. Brush, Albert Klie, S. 0. Hood, Ed Heaton and Harry Pigeon. They built a two-storey warehouse north of the Pere Marquette station to store stock and receive carloads of food products” p60


“The Harrow Farmers was founded on the strength of members' promissory notes, with P. T. Clark, manager of the Imperial Bank, Harrow, and said to be the only co-operative in Ontario that was not capitalized.” p60


Local crops included apples, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, grapes, melons, peaches, plums, pears, quince, asparagus, beans, cucumbers, peppers, potatoes, sweet corn, tomatoes, flowers, soybeans, sugar beets and tobacco.


“From modest beginnings as 10 hectares of tobacco plots on rented land, the Harrow Research Station has developed into a sophisticated centre for agricultural research” p71

Harrow Research and Development Centre
Building on the Past. Growing into the Future.


“From the earliest times, the importance of animal breeding was apparent. Farmers came together in agricultural societies and institutes to learn more about the care and raising of horses, cattle, sheep, hogs, and poultry. They had fairs to sell the animals, and to show their prize breeding stock. “ p68

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