Leaving prairie farms
Rural outflow, urban growth
Across Canada, the number of farms is falling rapidly. According to the 2001 census, farm numbers dropped
11 percent after the 1996 census — the biggest percentage decline since 1971. This means that 1 of every 10 farmers counted in 1996 had left farming in only five years.
The steepest declines were recorded on the Prairies, where farms shrank in number, yet grew in size. Getting out or getting bigger is the choice facing prairie farmers who have been pressed by falling profits, rising production and transportation costs, and decade-long dry growing conditions. Farmers who stayed expanded their operations and produced more through the use of mechanization and technological innovation. As a result, fewer people are needed to work on farms. Rural migrants now head for Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, and other burgeoning prairie cities, where jobs in service and high-technology industries are abundant.
With the resulting depopulation, the small rural communities built to serve local needs struggle to survive.
Historic grain elevators
Brightly painted, wooden grain elevators have long dominated the prairie horizon. However, they are slowly disappearing and being replaced by large cylinder-shaped concrete terminals. Saskatchewan once possessed more than 3,000 traditional grain elevators. By 2001, fewer than 300 were left standing.
This slide show has four iconic images of the prairies, including grain fields and grain elevators.