Alberta Farm and Ranch Women commemorates the present time by documenting Alberta’s determined women and examine the uncertain future of our rural culture. Farm women meet opportunity with passion, face their challenges with initiative and the unwavering desire to build something better for their families and community. Focusing on Alberta’s rural women by acknowledging their influence on my own experiences, I strive to create an awareness of their courage and strength. Recording current, critical moments in rural life, through paint, sound, video and photography, an extraordinary intimacy and rich reference to Alberta’s rural and agricultural history is portrayed.
This project would not exist without the influence of my great grandmothers, Agnes Saunders (Carnwood, Alberta) and Florence Dahl (Camrose, Alberta). Agnes emigrated from England in 1927 to meet my great-grandfather, who immigrated to Canada 7 years earlier, to begin a new life farming in the wilds of Alberta. Florence was one of the first women to own and operate her own business, Camrose Draperies, until her retirement in 1976. Although they have passed on, I have often thought about their challenges, their joys, if they would have chosen different paths and ultimately how would they feel about farming and life today. Photographs are precious, besides our memories and the re-telling of stories, photographs link us to family and history. There are very few photos of my great grandmothers and little documentation about their lives. The lost opportunity to document their stories led me to the realization that I should record the lives of rural women in the province I was born and raised in.
As this project progressed I recognized that agriculture is a vital industry to Alberta and rural women” “have been indispensable to its development. My concerns about farm life have also been intensified with the realization of how important a job it is to be a farmer, and how incredibly unpredictable it is.” “What will the future hold for farming and for all of these women and their families? No longer can the farmer alone sustain a family as husbands and wives must find work elsewhere to supplement the farm. In the future what kind of farming will there be and how will it be regulated? How will these changes affect the cost of food and how it is obtained? Are farmers looking towards sustainable farming and are they thinking about how to implement alternative farming practices to keep their farms?
Farmers and rural towns face many challenges to remain prosperous, which is reflected in the incredibly” “fast development of box stores that have invaded the picturesque, rural landscapes across this province. Can Alberta’s identity be refined? Is there a future for Alberta’s farms and ranches? Will Alberta’s unwavering Pioneering Spirit continue? Growing up in the farming communities of Camrose and Stettler, I was surrounded by independent women with strong work ethics. Rural Albertan women continue to face various hardships and challenges due, the isolation, to the wildlife, the harsh climate, unpredictable weather and vast landscape, elements that are crucial in showcasing all aspects of Alberta rural life. My dialogues with these women inquire how they feel about the changes in their community and how they would like to see themselves portrayed in place and appearance. “These are not famous women, but women whose daily work and sacrifice have contributed to the well being of our lives.“ 2
To these women of foresight, determination and action, we all owe a debt of gratitude and recognition. It is my sincere hope that with through the exploration and documentation of farming culture today via portraiture and sound recordings, that a moment can be taken to reflect upon the future of farming, the changing landscape, and discover what makes us unique as Albertans and as Canadians. By unearthing these stories we are reminded of how easily the erasure of history can occur, how important it is to record these pieces of Canadian history and how history can influence the future.
I would like to acknowledge and recognize that the Alberta Farm and Ranch Women project took place on Treaty 6, 7 and 8 lands. Hiy Hiy