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No. 11

Plans for Functional Farms: Buildings Researched and Designed by the Dominion Experimental Farms were Characterized by Convenience, Simplicity and Economy

by Nadia Kazymyra-Dzioba


In the early years of this century, when Canadian farmers required direction to modernize their practices, the government set up farms to place agriculture on a scientific basis and to pass this knowledge to farmers. Established in June 1886 by the Dominion Experimental Farms Act, the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa and four regional experimental farms conducted scientific research in several areas of agriculture, including livestock breeding and nutrition, butter and cheese production, development of new cereals, field crops, grasses and forage plants as well as fruits and vegetables, fertilizer analysis, plant and tree disease, insect pests, domestic animal diseases and agricultural seed purity.

Criteria for the first experimental farms

Activity commenced with the preparation of the sites and the construction of buildings for the first experimental farms in areas where conditions reflected the climatic and soil problems confronted by the local farmer. The original 446 acres chosen for the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa were selected because of two factors: easy accessibility by road, water and rail and a desirable variety of soils for experimental purposes. In contrast, some of the land occupied by the Nappan experimental farm was marsh, with soil acidity and drainage that are characteristic of the Maritimes.


One of the first superintendent's residences, built 1889, in Brandon, Manitoba.

Immigration spurs expansion and promotion of Farms programme

The Dominion Experimental Farms Act did not cover the design of farm buildings and equipment integral to these structures. Only with the massive influx of immigrants in the first decade of the twentieth century were research facilities of the Farms and their services to farmers considerably expanded.More experimental farms, stations and substations were established. An ambitious programme of educational exhibits, lantern slides and publications was started.

One hundred and seven exhibition circulars, issued by the Dominion Experimental Farms from 1915 to 1924 and distributed at country fairs, gave farmers much-needed advice. About twenty of these circulars (which are now located in the Department of Agriculture Library) dealt with farm buildings and equipment, providing design specifications, scale drawings, a list of materials required for construction and a list of the main features distinguishing the structure in question from other similar structures. The circulars were but one of several tools used to influence farming practices in Canada and to demonstrate to farmers the benefits derived from proper construction and wise use of farm buildings.