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Life on the farm can be very isolated, and for that reason communities have always provided a vital source of support. As farming communities began to develop in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, groups and events became a vital part of rural life.

Photo: A man rests against a horse-drawn harrow, [between 1900 and 1920]
Click to see a larger image (164K)
A man rests against a horse-drawn harrow, [between 1900 and 1920]
Photographer unknown
Black and white print
Collection of Nell Maciborka
Reference Code: C 163
Archives of Ontario, I0014234

In 1792, the first Agricultural Society was formed in Niagara-on-the-Lake (at that time it was called “Newark”), and this began a tradition of organizations devoted to improving agricultural life.

A major activity of these groups was the annual and semi-annual fairs and exhibitions. Whether bringing people from across the road or across the province together, fairs allowed people to share their experiences and knowledge and to feel part of a larger whole.

Click to see a larger image (150K)
Duncan Gray, Winner, Temiskaming District, 1928
Department of Agriculture, Agricultural
Representative Photograph Albums
Reference Code: RG 16-274, Album 3, 43
Archives of Ontario, I0019236

Photo: Duncan Gray, Winner, Temiskaming District, 1928

Photo: Championship school fair boys with grain, [ca. 1920]
Click to see a larger image (275K)
Championship school fair boys with grain, [ca. 1920]
Ministry of Education
Black and white print
Reference Code: RG 2-71 CNN-7
Archives of Ontario, I0004051

The Provincial Government eventually recognized the importance of these organizations and, beginning in the 1850s, began to sponsor Agriculture and Horticultural Societies and other special interest groups. In 1906, Dr. C. C. James, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, had a vision for the way the Department of Agriculture should operate. It involved sending trained agriculturalists to every region of the province. As a result of his proposal, the first seven District Representatives were stationed across the province in 1907 to oversee the technical aspects of farming, and to ensure the well being of the farmers they represented.

The Archives of Ontario Celebrates Our Agricultural Past: Strength in the Community - Ploughing Matches - Section Banner

Photo: Ploughing match contestant with judges, 1916
Click to see a larger image (219K)
Ploughing match contestant with judges, 1916
Reuben Sallows
Black and white print
Reference Code: C 223-3-0-0-16
Archives of Ontario, I0002277

The International Ploughing Match is an annual event. Established in 1913, people have come together to watch the horse, oxen, and tractor ploughing competitions, savour country apple pies, shear sheep, square dance, sing folk songs, pitch horseshoes, or even enter to win the Queen of the Furrow contest.



Click to see a larger image (115K)(115K)
Man ploughing with horses at the
International Ploughing Match, 1941
Gordon W. Powley
Black and white negative
Reference Code: C 5-1-0-190-1
Archives of Ontario, I0002839

Photo: Man ploughing with horses at the International Ploughing Match, 1941

Photo: Ploughing match in Ilderton, Ontario, [ca. 1920]
Click to see a larger image (353K)
Ploughing match in Ilderton, Ontario, [ca. 1920]
Ministry of Education
Black and white print
Reference Code: RG 2-71, YMA-13
Archives of Ontario, I0004345


Photo: Driving a Massey-Harris tractor, International Ploughing Match, 1941
Click to see a larger image (92K)
Driving a Massey-Harris tractor,
International Ploughing Match, 1941
Gordon W. Powley
Black and white negative
Reference Code: C 5-1-0-190-18
Archives of Ontario, I0002845

Photo: Inspecting machinery at the International Ploughing Match, 1941
Click to see a larger image (118K)
Inspecting machinery at the
International Ploughing Match, 1941
Gordon W. Powley
Black and white negative
Reference Code: C 5-1-0-190-9
Archives of Ontario, I0002841


Photo: Scene at the International Ploughing Match, 1941
Click to see a larger image (114K)
Scene at the International Ploughing Match, 1941 Gordon W. Powley
Black and white negative
Reference Code: C 5-1-0-190-11
Archives of Ontario, I0002843

Photo: Oxen ploughing at the International Ploughing Match in Kingston, 1977
Click to see a larger image (108K)
Oxen ploughing at the International
Ploughing Match in Kingston, 1977
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Reference Code: RG 16-276-2, 77-B641
Archives of Ontario, I0004592

The following three film segments show many hundreds of people enjoying Carp, Ontario's beautiful fall weather while participating as furrow plowers, judges, tractor riders, or spectators at the 1952 International Plowing Match.


International Plowing Match, 1952
Print, colour, silent ; 16 mm
Reference Code : RG 16-35-0-11
Archives of Ontario

Video Clip: International Plowing Match, 1952

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Video Clip: International Plowing Match, 1952

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Video Clip: International Plowing Match, 1952

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The Archives of Ontario Celebrates Our Agricultural Past: Strength in the Community - Fairs and Exhibits - Section Banner
London’s Western Fair and Agricultural Exhibition first entertained the community in 1868. On the first day of the two-day event, nearly 7,000 visitors squeezed into an army drill shed. People thrilled to see a variety of displays including the Phoenix Foundry’s threshing machine called Joan D’Arc, as well as quilts, stoves, cut flowers, cheese, swine, and toe plates for men's boots.

Map: The Western Fair, London. Sept. 12th to 19th 1925
Click to see a larger image (462K)
The Western Fair, London. Sept. 12th to 19th 1925
Western Fair Association
Reference Code: C 279-0-0-0-59
Archives of Ontario, I0004752

In November 1922, Toronto held the first annual Royal Agricultural Winter Fair as a tribute to Canadian agriculture. Held every year at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds, it has been considered the world’s largest indoor agricultural, horticultural and equestrian fair. People have gathered over the years from Ontario and abroad to witness everything from horse shows to sculptures made out of butter, and to see with their own eyes the latest farming technology has to offer.

Click to see a larger image (135K)
Two women from Port Hope with Italian marrow squash
at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Toronto, 1955
Photographs of the Communications Branch
of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food
Reference Code: RG 16-276-11, 1876
Archives of Ontario, I0019239

Photo: Two women from Port Hope with Italian marrow squash at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Toronto, 1955

Photo: 4H Queens Guineas Competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, 1984
Click to see a larger image (103K)
4H Queens Guineas Competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, 1984
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Colour negative
Reference Code: RG 16-276-2 85-B150
Archives of Ontario, I0004593

Photo: Ontario apple display at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, November 18, 1966
Click to see a larger image (192K)
Ontario apple display at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, November 18, 1966
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Colour negative
Reference Code: RG 16-276-2 66-B248
Archives of Ontario, I0004589


Photo: Children with Elsie the cow at the Canadian National Exhibition, [ca. 1941]

In the early 1940s, Elsie the cow was a star attraction at the Canadian National Exhibition. Everyone enjoyed visiting Elsie in her room complete with curtains, framed pictures, four-poster bed, and a telephone.

Click to see a larger image (148K)
Children with Elsie the cow at the Canadian National Exhibition, [ca. 1941]
Gordon W. Powley
Gordon W. Powley fonds
Reference Code: C 5-1-0-34-9
Archives of Ontario, I0011002


The Archives of Ontario Celebrates Our Agricultural Past: Strength in the Community - Clubs and Organizations - Section Banner
Agricultural Associations and Societies have been a mainstay of community life in rural communities since the late 18th century. Over the years there have been nearly as many associations as there are farms.

In 1897, the first branch of the Canadian Women’s Institute was formed in Stoney Creek, Ontario as a means of sharing domestic knowledge between rural women.

With the support of the Department of Agriculture, these groups joined forces in 1919 to form the Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario, which gave them the power to broaden their mandate in terms of education and advocacy.

Clothing project for Girls’ Club work, May 1934
Ontario Department of Agriculture,
Women’s Institutes Branch (4-H Manuals)
Reference Code: RG 16-275-1, Container 13, Item No. 1a
Archives of Ontario

Manual Cover: Clothing project for Girls’ Club work, May 1934

4-H Agricultural Club . . . Is it for you? [between 1972 and 1982]
4-H Agricultural Club . . . Is it
for you? [between 1972 and 1982]
Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Extension Branch 4-H Reports and Administrative files
Reference Code: RG 16-275-4, Container 1,
[File 2], Item no. 011
Archives of Ontario

The first Boys’ and Girls’ Club in Ontario was formed in 1915 by a Waterloo District Representative. The vision for these groups was to enrich rural life through the education of children, with an ultimate goal of fostering an understanding and love of agriculture that would be brought back to the community. In 1952, the name of these groups was changed to 4-H to better represent the essence of the organization, as expressed in the pledge:

My Head to clearer thinking
My Heart to greater loyalty
My Hands to larger service
My Health to better living

Photo: Two men at a water pump at a farm service camp, [ca. 1950]
Click to see a larger image (119K)
Two men at a water pump at a farm
service camp, [ca. 1950]
Ministry of Agriculture
Black and white print
Reference Code: RG 16-20-0-1-6
Archives of Ontario, I0006637

The following seven film segments show and tell the story of approximately 500 4-H boys and girls from across Ontario competing in cow, swine, poultry, grain, potato, forestry, and tractor maintenance club contests on a fall day at Guelph's Ontario Agricultural College.


4-H Interclub Competitions, [1955?]
Print, black and white, sound ; 16 mm
Reference Code: RG 16-35-0-33-1
Archives of Ontario

Video Clip: 4-H Interclub Competitions, [1955?]

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For Windows Media Player 403K 868K 2.8Mb
For Quicktime Player 475K 3.0Mb 7.7Mb
Video Clip: 4-H Interclub Competitions, [1955?]

Click below to view this clip.
For Windows Media Player 419K 882K 2.81Mb
For Quicktime Player 474K 3.01Mb 7.6Mb
Video Clip: 4-H Interclub Competitions, [1955?]

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For Windows Media Player 181K 357K 1.21Mb
For Quicktime Player 215K 1.41Mb 3.4Mb
Video Clip: 4-H Interclub Competitions, [1955?]

Click below to view this clip.
For Windows Media Player 245K 532K 1.7Mb
For Quicktime Player 295K 1.8Mb 4.8Mb
Video Clip: 4-H Interclub Competitions, [1955?]

Click below to view this clip.
For Windows Media Player 195K 421K 1.42Mb
For Quicktime Player 234K 1.6Mb 3.9Mb
Video Clip: 4-H Interclub Competitions, [1955?]

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For Windows Media Player 734K 735K 2.41Mb
For Quicktime Player 408K 2.5Mb 6.5Mb
Video Clip: 4-H Interclub Competitions, [1955?]

Click below to view this clip.
For Windows Media Player 845K 2.7Mb
For Quicktime Player 450K 2.9Mb 7.4Mb

Photo: Boyd and Lloyd Ayre Hampton (twins) exhibiting twin southdowns, Jr. Section, Oshawa, 1930
Boyd and Lloyd Ayre Hampton (twins) exhibiting twin southdowns, Jr. Section, Oshawa, 1930
Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Representative Photograph Albums
Reference Code: RG 16-274, Album 2, pg. 87.
Archives of Ontario, I0019304


At the 1934 Northern Ontario Poultry Association 29th annual show, some of the prizes included five gallons of oil, one load of wood, and a 24 carat gold dessert set.





Northern Ontario Poultry Association. 29th
annual show [at] Agricultural grounds
Fort William. Port Arthur: The Association, 1934.
Archives of Ontario Library Collection,
Reference Code: Pamph 1934 # 76
Archives of Ontario

Pamphlet Cover: Northern Ontario Poultry Association 29th Annual Show at Agricultural Grounds Fort William - Port Arthur, 1934

Photo: Northern Ontario exhibit which has a sign with Algoma, Cochrane, Manitoulin, Muskoka, Parry Sound, Nipissing, Sudbury & Temiskaming & features produce from the region
Click to see a larger image (270K)
Northern Ontario exhibit which has a sign with Algoma, Cochrane, Manitoulin,
Muskoka, Parry Sound, Nipissing, Sudbury & Temiskaming & features produce from the region
RG 16-274, Album 1, 39
Archives of Ontario, I0019235