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A Great Canadian

And a
Community Studies Program


Whereas the milk marketing board movement in Ontario was founded by dairy farmers of Scarborough on April 18 1892, we the undersigned friends and residents of Scarborough hereby petition the Dairy Farmers of Ontario to support the Janet McCowan Fincham Memorial Scarborough Community Studies Program.

To add your name to our petition, please copy / paste it into an email and send it to the email address on our Contacts page. A few of the 200 hundred or so names gathered thus far are here.

Basis for the Milk Challenge: Origins of the milk marketing board movement in Ontario

In the course of publishing Neigh the Front -- Exploring Scarboro Heights we were thrilled to discover that Ontario’s milk marketing board movement very probably began in Scarborough on April 18 1892 under the leadership of Alex McCowan of Scarborough. We are so certain of this that we are issuing the following challenge...

The Milk Challenge

The McCowan Society and the Scarboro Heights Record challenge other local and regional heritage organizations, fair boards, Dairy Farmers of Ontario and other groups, corporations and individuals to prove that Ontario’s milk marketing board movement began prior to April 18 1892 in some location other than in Scarborough.

Historical Information: Milk Producers Find A Leader

That the family dairy farm has survived in Canada is due, to a large extent, to the vision of Canadian farmer, Alexander McCowan.

Alexander McCowan (1853-1939) farmed his father’s 220 acres at Warden and Eglinton Avenue in Scarborough with his older brother, George. Alex was one of Scarborough’s keenest community builders and visionaries of his time. He was on Scarborough Council from 1901 to 1904 and served as the member of the Provincial Legislature, 1905-1913, and as Sheriff of York County, 1913-1934. His public service had started when he was Secretary to the Scarboro Agricultural Society. (See McCowan, Fairs and Frolics, pg. 25). But perhaps his greatest contribution to history -- and of national significance -- is that fact that he was essentially the founder of the milk marketing board movement in Ontario.

A bonafide hero of the family farm, Alex McCowan has been nominated in the CBC "Greatest Canadian" project. He is, arguably, the father of modern agri-marketing in Canada.

April 18: Fine day. Sowed barley all day. Went up to the milk meeting at Wexford at night with Geo. Formed an assoc. $1.00. Vice President. Chairman of meeting.

April 19: Fine day. Finished barley field about five o’clock. Started oats. Went to milk meeting at Cook’s with Geo. To be same price as last year. Set 4 hens at night 15 eggs each.

Diary of Alexander McCowan, 1892

That a hearty vote of thanks be tendered to Mr. Alex McCowan, the retiring Secretary, for his faithful and efficient service to the association for so many years.

From Clarke, Toronto Milk Producers’ Association, p. 9 re the Executive Meeting of the Toronto Milk Producers’ Association, Sept. 8 1906

Alex McCowan had entered the Ontario Legislature the previous year. According to Clarke, many of the early (1906-14) leaders of the Toronto Milk Producers' Association were, like Alex McCowan, from south Scarborough including James Chester, Levi Annis, James Cornell and A.J. Reynolds. This perhaps suggests a longstanding influential Scarborough involvement in Toronto area milk industry management. Clarke is vague on the actual date of the founding of the Toronto Association, suggesting only 1900 or perhaps earlier.

Page 1 of Clarke's Ontario Whole Milk Producers' League lists the other earliest milk producers' associations in Ontario and Quebec -- all formed after 1900. Of course it is possible that other primary source material may eventually reveal that other collective bargaining associations in Ontario's milk industry preceded 1900. But it is quite a jump to 1892 when Alex McCowan chaired the inaugural meeting of the association of Scarborough area dairy farmers. (Incidentally, Clarke had simply misspelled Alex McCowan's surname as "McGowan".)

What was it that drove Alex McCowan to lead Scarborough dairy farmers to form a marketing association in 1892?


A Milk Industry Student Project

Our recent publication, Neigh the Front -- Exploring Scarboro Heights includes the following student Research, Analysis and Writing Assignment:

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".

It is reasonable to expect that the milk industry could support a student research and writing project on, say, nutrition in Scarborough 1920-1970.

New e-Learning Resource

Our on-line learning resource and information processing program uses community studies and local history as a catalyst. This is a joint project of the James McCowan Memorial Social History Society ( and the Scarboro Heights Record (

Recent Local History Publication as a Focal Point for Information Processing Program

Our information processing program begins with students looking at reviews of Neigh the Front -- Exploring Scarboro Heights. This recent soft-cover publication provides a focal point for the program and includes individual exercises and class discussion topics. Only some of the materials in the book are on the web site. Please refer to the reviews of Neigh the Front at the end of this note for the value of this book within a learning context. Neigh the Front is available from the James McCowan Memorial Social History Society.

Sharing a Vision for On-Line Research and Local History Studies

The Toronto Public Library has linked the Scarboro Heights Record web site to Toronto Public Library's Virtual Reference Library (VRL) and (we understand) to its forthcoming Historicity: Toronto Then and Now gateway on the VRL ( The VRL entry for Scarboro Heights Record is: " -- James McCowan Memorial Social History Society. This site features a great amount of information about Scarborough history, particularly that of the community of Scarborough Heights. You will find a map of Historic Sites, as well as a listing of historic events in the area. There is some biographical information on the founders of the area. Included is an index to all of the articles in the Scarboro Heights Record."

We hope that you can arrange for similar helpful links to

Reviews of Neigh the Front

In Neigh the Front, Bruce McCowan has assembled an impressive montage of primary sources documenting the history of Scarboro Heights. The story is told through eyewitness accounts amplified by background information, learning exercises, pictures and maps. Supplementing the book is a companion internet site,, presenting additional data, a bibliography and learning sections on information processing and writing techniques. This integrated print and electronic resource will help students develop the investigative, analytical and organizational skills that are so crucial in today's world. It also supports the need to locate relevant information from a variety of sources, including the use of computers and electronic resources.

Barbara Myrvold, librarian and local historian

Neigh The Front - Exploring Scarboro Heights is a veritable gold mine for teachers, historians, or anyone who is interested in local history. Through a collection of letters and interviews, the reader is taken along an historic journey through two centuries of this region's past. Students of all ages will be surprised at how easy this collection of primary historical sources is to understand and how clear our past can become by reading the thoughts and reflections of those people who have lived it. This anthology allows the reader to catch glimpses of bushwhackers felling trees for Kingston Road's "corduroy" surface. One also sees that not so long ago, the weary traveller in these parts had to contend with attacks by wolves and bandits as well as muddy roads and the elements. The experiences of local farmers during the World Wars and the Great Depression are also brought to life.

As with the invaluable website which complements this book, Neigh The Front is filled with exercises and questions which can readily be used in any classroom. For all of these reasons, Neigh The Front deserves a prominent spot on every teacher's desk.

J.P. Hoekstra, Head of History, R.H. King Academy


We look forward to hearing from you soon with respect the Milk Challenge.


From The Scarboro Heights Record V9 #5 and
The McCowans' Who's Who
, Vol. 10

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