Rooted In History

The Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA) has been around since 1904.  But where did it all get started?

In the late 1890’s, Canada had very limited agricultural research resources. The federal Experimental Farm system was an extension education and crop evaluation facility without much capacity to improve crop varieties. A handful of dedicated individuals in the federal Department of Agriculture saw the need for improvement in seed stocks that would lead to more profitable crops.

J.W. Robertson, the Commissioner of Agriculture and Dairying in the Dominion Department of Agriculture, conceived a plan to encourage farm children to grow better crops from better seed.  In the spring of 1899, he donated $100 for prizes to junior farmers to collect the best hundred heads of wheat and barley on their fathers’ farms.  The following year, Sir William C. Macdonald of Montreal donated ten thousand dollars to continue the program and develop a larger seed plot competition amongst farm children.  The competition lasted three years and developed a strong following including the parents of the children involved in the competition.  After the completion of the competition, the parents of those children expressed a desire to continue the work of selecting better seed.  As a result, the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA) was established in 1904 and those parents would eventually become the first original members of the Association.

In 1904, both the President and Secretary were officials from the federal Department of Agriculture.  It was not until 1923 that the first non-government employee took over as Secretary, and not until 1925 was the office of President filled by other than a federal government officer.  In 1926, the Association elected its first grower President.

Today, the Association’s affairs are conducted by a President and 24-member Board of Directors.  Fourteen directors are active seed growers elected by the membership, and nine are appointed by Provincial Ministers of Agriculture.  The CSGA office is located in Ottawa under the supervision of an Executive Director.

The Association was very different back then and has evolved over the years but despite the changes in methods and operations that have taken place over the years, the aims and objectives of the CSGA, to improve pedigreed seed production and usage, have remained.