UFA has a rich history in the province and since its creation in 1909, it has been a steadfast advocate for the farmer. The co-operative entered into politics after recognizing the need for farmers to band together to protect prairie interests. In 1919 a resolution was passed at the UFA Annual Convention to allow its members to engage in political activity, both provincially and federally. There was initial reluctance by then UFA President Henry Wise Wood but heading into politics was what the membership wanted.
In a snap election a small group of farmers surprised everyone, including themselves, by securing two-thirds of the legislative seats needed to form the provincial government on July 18, 1921. The UFA Party remained in office until 1935.
“We had no political organization in the ordinary sense of the word. But we had something better...an intelligent citizenship...The result was that when the election was announced, the people organized themselves. Within ten days, every constituency in the province had formed its own organization.” (In Rennie, 2000, p. 183)
~ Henry Wise Wood
Despite the easy win, their governance was not without issues that farmers of today still battle, including things like drought and dare we say, grain-marketing challenges. They entered politics without a detailed platform but drew on their values and experience as a co-operative. A group founded on being a strong advocate for the farmer that continues to be a guiding principle a century later.
Notably, the UFA Party governed through some tumultuous times as well, impacted by the “Spanish” Flu, the First World War and the years of economic and agricultural hardship, culminating in the Great Depression of the early ‘30s.
UFA truly has a fascinating history and our United Farmers Historical Society (UFHS) Archivist, Erin Hoar has produced a wonderful virtual exhibit commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the UFA Party. It is well worth your time to take in this exhibit:
One wonders if these trailblazers had the forethought and vision that one hundred years into the future that the United Farmers of Alberta would become one of Canada’s largest co-operatives, 120,000+ members strong!