At one time Alberta children got to stay home from school on the second Friday in June to celebrate Farmer’s Day.
Kevin Hoppins, UFA Board chairman, remembers those days fondly, but often wondered, “Why my urban classmates also got the day off school as this was Farmer’s Day?”
“On our farm, having a day off of school for “Farmer’s Day” meant that the crop had been seeded or that the spraying was yet to start. So this day offered a rest in between the busy farming season. As time passed I realized this significant day wasn’t just for farmers— it was about the need to honour agriculture in the province,” explains Hoppins.
Hoppins said that the roots of Farmer’s Day in Alberta can be traced back as far as 1914, when the Roseview (near Carbon, Alberta) local chapter of UFA hosted an annual gathering called ‘UFA Sunday’. The purpose was to provide local UFA members, regardless of their religious affiliations, an opportunity “to join in a religious service, as it was considered that by showing the similarity in aims of the church and the farmers’ organization, good-will and co-operation would be promoted.”
The idea soon spread and was adopted as a province-wide event at UFA’s 1918 conference. The tradition continued for many years and in time included athletic events, speeches, sing-alongs and evening dances.
By the 1940s there were calls within the organization to expand the celebration to engage all Albertans in celebrating the contributions of farmers to the province. At the 1945 UFA Annual Convention, the co-operative passed a resolution that would fix a date “to be observed as ‘Farmers’ Day’ in Alberta on which day our Locals shall be asked to arrange suitable functions throughout the Province designed to remind us of the importance of our industry and our Organization.”
UFA then began lobbying the Alberta government for a day which recognized Alberta farmers’ contributions. In 1951, Premier Ernest Manning’s Social Credit Government proclaimed Friday, June 8 a school holiday to be observed as a Farmers’ Holiday. For many years, the Alberta government would continue to proclaim one Friday in June to be a school holiday in recognition of farmers.
In 1975, the Alberta School Act was amended to allow school boards an option to declare a Farmers’ Day school holiday on the second Friday of June in any year. This amendment remains part of the School Act to this day. In 2010, UFA Co-operative Limited revived the tradition of celebrating Farmer’s Day at our UFA Farm and Ranch Supply Stores and Petroleum Agencies, honouring Alberta’s agricultural producers, families and members of rural communities with picnics, games and music.
“Today I am very proud that UFA and the United Farmers Historical Society (UFHS) celebrate Farmer’s Day to raise the awareness of one Alberta’s oldest and most important industries,” said Hoppins. “Agriculture is an industry that has been built by farmer’s hard work, dedication, and love of the land all across this great province,” said Hoppins.
To help honour Farmer’s Day, the United Farmers Historical Society worked with urban friends so they could help their country cousins celebrate on Farmer’s Day! The Calgary Tower and City Hall in Lethbridge will boast green and orange lights and Reconciliation Bridge in Calgary will turn orange, to help recognize Farmer’s Day June 8.
About United Farmers Historical Society (UFHS)
UFHS stewards and promotes the historical artifacts of the United Farmers of Alberta, showcasing the co-operative's contributions to agriculture and life in and around Alberta. In telling the story of our past, we set the stage for UFA's future as a strong and influential voice for the farmers of today and tomorrow.