The History of Farmer’s Day in Alberta

U.F.A. Picnic August 6, 1915 (UF 2014.0007).

Farmer’s Day is recognized on the second Friday in June, falling on June 10th of this year. The day has evolved over the years, with the first, similar event appearing over a century ago. Early on, the day was known as U.F.A. Sunday, with the day dedicated to church services, picnic lunches, sporting events, evening dances, sing-alongs, and more.

The United Farmers of Alberta (U.F.A.) along with the United Farm Women of Alberta (U.F.W.A.), and Jr. Branch would often work together at the local level to organize plans for U.F.A. Sunday, which included arranging speakers or activities, inviting members, and making lunches for attendees. The purpose of the day was to provide U.F.A. members with the opportunity to gather as a community, and recognize the similarities between Christian and farming values. 

The first officially celebrated U.F.A. Sunday was organized May 25, 1914 by the Roseview Local in the Camble Schoolhouse, near Carbon. Years later, L.B. Hart of the Roseview Local reminisced on the importance of their U.F.A. Sunday service:

“We saw that our local was composed of people of many churches and nationalities, all working for the good of each other and the highest and best in our community life, who in work and play were all one people, but when we came to worship we each went our different ways. We thought that one day in the year we could gather, Catholic, Protestant, to worship as a unit, and in a public way acknowledge our dependence on God and seek inspiration and help.”

From “Origin of U.F.A. Sunday”, 1920

Hart went on to say that by bringing both farming and religious forces together, it would unify people and contribute towards goodwill and co-operation.

Image from “Origin of U.F.A. Sunday” originally printed in the United Grain Growers’ Guide, 1920 (74-11e).

U.F.A. President James Speakman also supported the idea of U.F.A. Sunday, stating “I recommend to the consideration of all our unions…that a U.F.A. Sunday be made a general institution throughout the province. It is a grand thought.”

U.F.A. Sunday soon became an annual event spreading across the province and in the 1917 U.F.A. Annual Convention program, it stated “the annual convention set apart one Sunday as U.F.A. Sunday…May 21st was decided on by your Board of Directors, and much interest was manifested, and much thought was given to the connection between the social and the religious problems that are persistently knocking at our door…” By 1919, the Board of Directors decided to change the date from the nearest Sunday to May 24th, to the third Sunday in June in order to avoid clashing with other important church festivals. While the day was organized around religious services and speeches, U.F.A. Sunday consisted of a variety of activities to suit all, including athletics, music, dancing and fun.

An address delivered by Rev. Mr. Phelps on U.F.A. Sunday, originally printed in the United Grain Growers’ Guide (74-11e).

U.F.A. Sunday became recognized outside the organization as well with an issue of The Morning Albertan, Calgary praising the annual event:

“By its appeal to the churches through its instituting a U.F.A. Sunday, the farmers’ movement of Alberta evidences its recognition of its moral and religious responsibilities. This lifts the movement above the narrow groove of class and sordid selfishness to a higher plane where is seen the relations of the farmers to all other organizations, as well as its responsibilities to the state. But U.F.A. Sunday means more than that even. It implies that the farmers’ movement recognizes that the spirit of the Christian principles is essential to the solution of our modem problems, and it thrusts out what might be called a mild challenge to organized Christianity to study and test the aims of the movement, and to endorse these if they are Christian or condemn them if they are not.”

as reported in the May 15, 1923 issue of The U.F.A., p. 5
U.F.A. picnic at Pine Lake with children playing on a homemade merry go-round, 1916 (UF 2004.0037.06).

In 1923, United Farmers of Alberta President, Henry Wise Wood, wrote a full page article on “The Significance of U.F.A. Sunday” citing scriptural texts for recommended discussion and inspiration. He stated that “the development of better social conditions, being the primary object of the U.F.A., we would be unwise not to make a serious investigation of this possible source of information and guidance. U.F.A. Sunday should be used for that purpose (Wood, 1923, p. 5).”

Leading up to the event, announcements were made in The U.F.A. (the organization’s official publication), to communicate the significance of the day to members and Locals, and to encourage communities to start their planning early to make their U.F.A. Sunday as momentous as possible. Locals would invite speakers to their events including prominent U.F.A. leaders such as James Speakman, Rice Sheppard, W.J. Tregillus, as well as local politicians and religious figures. 

Afterwards, Locals would report on their festivities in the news section of The U.F.A. The Beddington U.F.W.A. announced that their church had been filled to capacity for their U.F.A. Sunday year after year, and the Lone Ridge Local was proud to report that they had secured Perren Baker, MLA for Medicine Hat and Education Minister in the U.F.A. government, as the speaker for their event (The U.F.A., March 16 1927, p. 24).

At Clear Lake, a large number of people assembled to celebrate U.F.A. Sunday despite the strong winds and hot heat. The audience “which even the large community hall proved inadequate to accommodate” welcomed William Irvine, Member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin, who spoke on “The Religious Significance of the U.F.A”, and hosted other notable guests including R. A. McPherson, Wheat Pool Director, Amy Warr, President of the U.F.W.A., and Charlie Mills, President of the Junior U.F.A. (The U.F.A., August 1 1929, p. 6). It was noted that “the gathering will be a memorable one in the history of the movement in the district.”

While U.F.A. Sunday was initially named for the religious prominence found in the day, it was also a day for farmers and their families to take a break from farming and gather with their friends and neighbors. The early origins of U.F.A. Sunday highlights the religious aspect that was once prominent in the U.F.A. organization, but this shifted as the years went on to re-focus efforts on agricultural appreciation while still maintaining the communal aspect of the day. In 1945 the following resolution was put forward by the Strathmore U.F.A. Local and passed at the U.F.A. annual convention:

Resolutions Passed at the Thirty-Sixth Annual Convention of the United Farmers of Alberta, January 1945, p. 4. In U.F.A. convention minutes 1943 – 1946 (UF 2014.0012.23).  

Only two years after this proclamation, the June 21, 1947 issue of the Calgary Herald noted that 500,000 farmers were celebrating Farmer’s Day with picnics, sports and dances in the rural communities of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta (In Bly, 2004, p. 31). Farmer’s Day was also considered a day off for U.F.A. office staff, and was recognized as a holiday by the Alberta Wheat Pool and the United Grain Growers throughout the 1950s.

The U.F.A.’s work in lobbying the Alberta government for a day recognizing the contributions of farmers was soon a success, when in 1951 the Social Credit government of Alberta under Ernest Manning proclaimed Friday June 8th to be a school holiday observed as “Farmers’ Holiday.” This did not come without controversy and the Calgary School Board at the time reportedly protested the holiday, claiming it to be “irrelevant to city schools” (Bly, 2004, p. 31). Despite this, the provincial government continued to proclaim a Friday in June to be a school holiday in recognition of farmers for many years.

Proclamation in The Alberta Gazette declaring Farmers’ Holiday in The School Act, May 31, 1951.

In 1975, the Alberta School Act was amended to allow local school boards an option of declaring Farmers’ Day as a school holiday on the second Friday of June in any year. An amendment that remained in the Act until 2019.

How is Farmer’s Day celebrated today?

In 2010, UFA Co-operative Limited revived the tradition of celebrating Farmer’s Day at UFA Farm and Ranch Supply Stores and Petroleum Agencies to honour the province’s agricultural producers, families and members of rural communities with picnics, games and music (UFA Corporate Communications, 2018).

Along with the UFA, the United Farmers Historical Society has established a tradition to recognize Farmer’s in the province with a light up event in UFA colours at different locations including the Calgary Tower, Reconciliation Bridge and the Alberta Legislature. This symbolizes UFA’s salute to the tireless work agriculture producers continue to do to feed the world.

Alberta Legislature light-up for Farmer’s Day 2020 (provided by Alberta Infrastructure).

References & Further Reading:

Bly, David. (2004, Jun 11). “Farmer’s Day Fades Away with Farm Population” In Calgary Herald, p. 31. Retrieved from  

“Origin of U.F.A. Sunday”, (1920, Nov. 3). In the Grain Growers’ Guide. United Farmers Historical Society Fonds 1, Series 8, File 10. 

School Act, RSA 2000, c S-3. (2019). retrieved from 

The U.F.A (1929, Aug. 1). “U.F.A. Sunday Observed at Large Gathering at Clear Lake Community Centre” Vol. 8, no. 19, p. 6. Retrieved from 

Tolton, G. (2009). Deep Roots. Promising Future. Calgary: UFA. Retrieved from  

UFA Corporate Communications. (2018, May 24). “The History of Farmer’s Day in Alberta” In Press Releases. Retrieved from

Wood, H.W. (1923, May 15). “The Significance of U.F.A. Sunday” In The U.F.A., The U.F.A. Vol. 2, no. 9 . Retrieved from

One thought on “The History of Farmer’s Day in Alberta

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s