A Bushel of History
Did you know that the wheat we consume today is much the same as it was hundreds of years ago? Although advancements have been made to help wheat withstand the cold Alberta climate, many of the same qualities are still present. Alberta wheat has been fueling our lives for centuries!
Back in 1814, Lord Selkirk, founder of the Red River Colony, harvested the first wheat crop in the western prairies which was planted with seeds he brought over from Europe. Although it wasn’t much in terms of bushels, it was seen as a great success after prior attempts in 1812 and 1813 both failed. Because the seeds they were using were brought with them from Europe, the wheat was not accustomed to Canada’s cold climate.
A variety of wheat called Red Fife was introduced to Canada in 1842, which grew better than the other varieties and produced better quality products, but still struggled to withstand the cold climate. This challenge led the Selkirk settlers to the development of early maturing wheat, which would allow them to harvest earlier, thereby avoiding the damaging cold temperatures.
The first of these early maturing wheat varieties – called Marquis – was developed by Charles Saunders and is famous for its milling and baking qualities. Marquis thrived under the growing conditions in Western Canada, which encouraged farmers to expand their wheat fields. It has been shown that virtually every wheat variety produced in Canada over the past 100 years can be traced back to crosses made with Marquis.
Marquis has been credited as the cornerstone of wheat development in Western Canada and was adopted as the standard of bread wheat quality in 1923. The high quality of bread we continue to enjoy today can be attributed to the famous milling and baking qualities of the Marquis Wheat our ancestors enjoyed over a hundred years ago.