Perhaps the most important contributing factor in the development of Canada has been the growing of wheat. The first shipment of wheat from Manitoba to eastern Canada took place on October 21, 1876. It was 857 bushels of Red Fife grown in Kildonan, Springfield and Rockwood. The order had been for 5,000 bushels, but it was not possible to gather that much so late in the season. The first shipment of wheat overseas took place in 1884, and went from Brandon, Manitoba, to Glasgow, Scotland.
Red Fife was developed originally by David Fife, near Peterborough. There is a memorial to him on the highway between Toronto and Peterborough. Fife had been sent a sample of wheat by a friend in Glasgow. He thought it was wheat to be planted in the autumn and harvested the following summer, but only three plants grew. Two of them, it is said, were eaten by a cow. Fife kept the remaining seed and planted it the following April. This time it grew far more successfully. It was harder than other spring wheats and ripened nearly two weeks faster than other seed of its type, thus lessening the risk of being spoiled by early September frost. He called it Red Fife.
Fife’s first market for the new wheat was the Middle West of the United States. In 1868 the Red River crops were destroyed by a plague of grasshoppers and the settlers had to buy seed from their neighbours across the border. That was the way Red Fife came to be tried on the Canadian Prairies, and it was a tremendous success. It not only proved to be the most suitable wheat for the soil already under cultivation, but it enabled wheat to be grown farther north.
Of course improvements were made on Red Fife. The introduction of the wheat, followed by the production of better harvesting machinery and better milling processes, soon made “Canadian Number 1 Hard” the finest wheat in the world. It led to the great immigration to western Canada that brought more than 2 million new settlers to Canada in 15 years.
If you’d prefer to read a book, I suggest Canada’s Wheat King: The Life and Times of Seager Wheeler, where you will find this paragraph:
“From this spot on October 21, 1876, the first shipment of wheat from Western Canada started by Red River Steamer, 857-1/6 bushels of Red Fife at 85¢ per bushel …”
… which is inscribed on a tri-light lamp, offered on November 7, 1946 to Seager Wheeler (to the best of my knowledge). I recommend this book!
“You have been blessed with an abundant harvest, and soon I trust will a railway come to carry to those who need it the surplus of your produce, now — as my own eyes have witnessed — imprisoned in your storehouses for want of the means of transport.
– Lord Dufferin at Winnipeg, 1877.