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Historical Inquiry and Communication 
Rich Learning Tasks
Agriculture, Leadership and Safety

Expectations: The student will:

  • formulate questions; interpret and analyze information gathered through research; articulate assumptions; and then communicate results of their inquiry

  • describe how farming changed radically during a particular span of time

  • describe some aspects of farm life that appeared to change very slowly during a particular span of time 

  • describe the contributions of agricultural leaders

  • describe agriculture as a socio-economic system, with both structure and control mechanisms as well as public safety concerns

  • describe agriculture as a system of integrated technologies

  • compare and contrast after-school activities today vis a vis after-school activities on the farm in the 1920s and 1930s


Some Input Information to Consider:

First read the entries on this page (below), all pages that are linked to the Agriculture  and Food Supply main pages, as well as any relevant information that appears at other linked pages at various locations in the text. There is also our Agriculture Learning Unit. You should also go to Search This Site and perform searches using words such as "cattle", "barn", "farming".   Use your language and critical thinking skills to define other valuable search criteria.  Refer also to the Subject Index and "Latest Issue" pages. With respect to the Oral History Interview Project, read the McCowan Society Strategy as well as one or two of the following sample projects:


Rich Task Exercises -- Pick One Topic from Each Group Below:

Pick one topic from each of the groups below and link them together in your research paper.  In completing your selected research assignments, be sure to address two or three of the Expectations above. As usual you must clearly state all of your assumptions.

Farm-Related Safety -- A Systems Approach:
  1. Consider the following statement by lifelong dairy farmer Neil Weir: "You have to feed (cows) much better to get a lot of milk." Identify some past practices in feeding dairy cattle. Articulate your position on where the dairy industry should "draw the line" on what is given to cows in order to get more milk.
  2. Discuss safety on the farm. Describe 5 hazards. Describe the risks to humans that were associated with each of these hazards. 
  3. In your opinion, what was the greatest safety hazard on the farm? List and explain the criteria that you used in order to select the most significant safety hazard. Now conceptually design a set of safety rules to follow or some kind of physical guard or other safety controls that would help minimize the risk. Describe the "top 3 things" -- the "no matter whats" -- that the user would always have to deal with regarding this hazard.
  4. Draw a mind map showing agriculture as a socio-economic system, with both structure and control mechanisms as well as safety issues.
  5. Draw a mind map showing agriculture as a system of integrated technologies.

In-Role Situations:

  1. You are a farm worker. You work in the barn with the cattle where an old stationary engine runs a conveyor system for cattle feed. The engine is noisy, big and somewhat "in the way" when putting in straw for bedding 2 of the cows. Your fork just missed the engine flywheel once. You would like to convince the farm owner to replace the old engine with an electric motor. He's a clever fellow who can fix anything and always has a reason to stick with what's working. You know you'll never convince him just by talking to him about it. So your plan is to first write down your argument for making the change to electric motor. Your argument anticipates what he will say. You must consider consequences for each decision path that is taken. You write your proposal as a proper technical report -- "The Benefits of An Electric Motor-Driven Feed Conveyor". (Note: Treat this like the early stages of any design problem)
  2. You are an Industrial Design Consultant. You have been asked to design a new type of stationary engine that will burn biogas on dairy farms. You know a bit about engines. But now you need to know more -- a lot more -- about exactly how and where stationary engines are typically installed and used on farms. Safety is a major design criteria. Your first step is to design, develop, test and then implement an Oral History Interview Project "Stationary Engines: Their Safe Installation and Use on Farms". You will interview people who have worked with stationary engines in Ontario agriculture.  (Note: Treat this like any design problem -- you need a design brief, an initial list of requirements ... etc.)
  3. You are a labour activist typically working on six month contracts with major unions in Canada. You are approached by a group of farm workers who say, in their letter, "If we are ever to get a farm workers' union in Canada, it is now or never. We don't even get minimum wage".  Gee, you didn't know that. "What else don't I know about farmwork?" you wonder out loud. Your first step is to design, develop, test and then implement an Oral History Interview Project "Farmwork and Farmworkers -- A Systems, Interactions and Relationships Approach". You will interview people who have worked in Ontario agriculture, for example, either as owner-operator or as labourer.  (Note: Treat this like any design problem -- you need a design brief, an initial list of requirements ... etc.)

Agricultural Leadership:

  1. Using any available resources (including people), describe the role of the Ontario Milk Marketing Board (now known as Dairy Farmers of Ontario). Has the board supported the family farm in Ontario? If so, how? What is the future of the milk marketing board and why do you think this is so? Output the results of your analysis to a 300 word essay. List your resources -- both who and what.
  2. You are invited to write a biography of Clark Young for a prestigious publication. Clark Young was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame. Refer to the Clark Young Collection. You must follow best practices for writing scholarly biographies.
  3. You are invited to write a biography of Alexander McCowan for a prestigious publication. Alex McCowan was the founder of the orderly milk marketing in Ontario. You must follow best practices for writing scholarly biographies. Contact us for additional resources.

Design, Develop and Implement an Oral History Interview Project Such As:

  1. "Agriculture in Scarborough: 1925-1950" 
  2. "Agriculture in Southern Ontario: 1950-2000" 
  3. "Stationary Engines: Their Safe Installation and Use on Farms" 
  4. "Farmwork and Farmworkers -- A Systems, Interactions and Relationships Approach" 


 The Scarboro Heights Record V14 #11


Until the Second World War, to talk about community in Scarborough, to talk about economics, to talk about employment, was to talk about agriculture. The family farm was a fundamentally important economic unit, not only in Scarborough, but in much of Canada.  Here's how the family farm started in Scarborough at the dawn of the nineteenth century.

Emigration to Upper Canada
Isolated Communities

A number of factors contributed to the great emigration from Scotland to Upper Canada in the early nineteenth century: including central government assistance, local assistance, fast-talking land agents and encouragement from friends. In general terms, the industrial and agricultural revolutions had radically upset the relative socio-economic stability of the mid-eighteenth century. Emigration was viewed as a viable remedy for overpopulation, unemployment and widespread poverty.

The first of the emigrants to settle in a particular locality in Upper Canada were thrust back into a world of isolation. Initially, they were without neighbours and the trials of surviving alone in a wilderness were awesome. As others arrived, a farming community took shape. For a decade or so, the community operated much like the lowland fermtoun of the mid eighteenth century. While land holdings here were generally independent of one another, cooperation was critical to the social and economic welfare of the neighbourhood. Isolated from other settlements by the thick forest, the local economy operated largely on a self-sufficiency, barter and subsistence basis.

It is no wonder then that the amusement patterns in the early decades of an Upper Canadian Scots' community were strikingly similar to the patterns in the old fermtouns.

Scarboro Heights Record V7 #1


Some Stories & Info on This Web Site 
Relating To Agriculture

(Other than the Links at the top of this page and their child-links)
(Back Issues of Scarboro Heights Record Generally)
Government land ownership policy 1841
Memories -- on the Farm 1925-1950
Safety on the Farm Horses and Implements
Links to other Research Sources
The Founding of Organized Milk Marketing  In Ontario
Food Supply Top Level page (with many links)
Learning Unit: Agriculture
A Farm Diary 1892

 Refer also to the Bibliography for Upper Canada / Ontario.