The Archives of United Grain Growers Ltd.
At the opening of the present century, western agriculture was expanding at an unprecedented rate. Thousands of acres of new land were being brought under cultivation and new production records were being established. Grain handling facilities were in the hands of private companies and producers were very dissatisfied with their treatment under existing conditions. The Territorial Grain Growers Association was formed in 1902 followed by the Manitoba Grain Growers Association in 1903. These organizations did much to improve conditions, but many inequities remained. Finally, a small group of prairie farmers led by E.A. Partridge of Sintaluta, Saskatchewan, decided that the solution to their marketing problem lay in forming their own grain handling organization. Out of this arose the Grain Growers' Grain Company Limited, the first farmer-owned and farmer-managed co-operative grain handling organization in western Canada.
Country Elevator System
In its early years, the Grain Growers' Grain Company Limited operated as a commission firm only. Its first venture into the operation of elevators came in 1912 when it leased 174 elevators from the Manitoba government, of which it operated 135. Shortly after, it began the purchasing and building of elevators. The Alberta Farmers' Co-operative Elevator Company Limited was incorporated in 1913 and immediately began building elevators. By the time of the amalgamation of the two companies in 1917, the Grain Growers' Grain Company Limited owned 60 elevators, 55 coal sheds, and 78 warehouses, and operated another 137 elevators on lease from the Manitoba government. The Alberta Farmers' Co-operative Elevator Company Limited owned 103 elevators, 122 coals sheds, and 145 warehouses. By the time the 1917 construction program was completed, the new company was operating 332 country elevators, 184 coal sheds, and over 200 warehouses.
The Company continued to build elevators during the twenties and also purchased many of the Manitoba government elevators which it had been leasing. By 1932, it owned and operated 468 country elevators. During the next ten years, including the drought period, the Company sold or dismantled a number of elevators and, by 1939, the number was reduced to 439. In 1943, the Company purchased the elevator system of the Gillespie Grain Company Limited and also a number of elevators from other companies. During the war years, it built a large number of annexes to take care of the grain surplus. By 1947, it owned and operated 515 country elevators with 324 annexes, with a total capacity of 25,600,000 bushels. In 1948, the Company purchased 110 elevators from the Reliance Grain Company Limited and five from the Anderson Elevator Company, and in 1954 purchased 65 elevators from the Midland and Pacific Grain Corporation Ltd. In 1959, the Company purchased 129 elevators from the Canadian Consolidated Grain Company Limited. With the UGG purchase on August 1, 1961 of the assets of Canada West Grain Company, five country elevators were included. The acquisition of McCabe Grain Company facilities added a terminal at Thunder Bay and country elevators at 72 points.
Consolidation of elevator facilities and the building of new elevators and annexes found the Company with country elevators and annexes at 276 points, with a combined capacity of 1.12 million tonnes by July 31, 1990.
Terminal Elevator History
At the Annual Meeting of the Grain Growers' Grain Company Limited in 1912, the Directors were authorized to acquire terminal space at the Lakehead. Two Fort William terminals, operating as a single unit with a capacity of 2,300,000 bushels, were leased from the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1913, another terminal in Fort William was purchased. The terminal, which burned down in 1916, was replaced with a 300,000 bushel terminal in Port Arthur. These elevators served company needs at the Lakehead until 1927, at which time a modern and efficient 5,500,000 bushel terminal was built. During the grain surplus period in the Second World War, two temporary annexes were built bringing the total storage capacity to 9,500,000 bushels. These temporary annexes, however, were dismantled with the disappearance of the surplus. Following the purchase of the Reliance Grain Company elevators and the extensive network of country annexes, it became necessary to enlarge the terminal. Subsequently, in 1952, a 1,000,000 bushel annex was built bringing the capacity to 6,500,000 bushels. In September 1959, the outshore annex of the terminal collapsed and was replaced with a 4,250,000 bushel annex, bringing the total capacity of the terminal A to 8,250,000 bushels.
In 1959, the Company acquired a 1,500,000 bushel terminal from Consolidated Grain, but this terminal was taken out of service in 1970.
In 1969, the United Grain Growers acquired a very large terminal from McCabe Grain with a rated capacity of 3.5 million bushels. This terminal operates from a central control panel and is well advanced in automation. A single pass cleaning system installed in 1983 allows greater versatility in cleaning different grains at a high capacity throughput.
In 1913, the Company acquired a small elevator at New Westminster to handle feed grains from Alberta. This elevator had fairly good business opportunities until the depression. During the depression, the feed business was temporarily disrupted and the elevator was sold. In 1925, United Grain Growers Limited purchased a controlling interest in the Burrard Elevator Company. At the time, Burrard operated a terminal in Vancouver which was under lease from the Harbours Board. U.G.G. bought out the remaining shareholders of Burrard in 1980 and operated the terminal under lease for 36 years. In 1966, U.G.G. acquired the 500,000 bushel terminal outright.
In an effort to become more efficient and increase throughput, several upgrading programs were undertaken. The capacity of the Vancouver terminal was increased to 1,500,000 bushels in 1932, 2,500,000 bushels in 1959, and 3,600,000 bushels in 1972. In 1980, a central control panel was installed which semi-automated the terminal. 1984 witnessed a new oilseed cleaning section, increased trackage capacity, as well as the installation of shiploaders. Land acquired from the port of Vancouver allowed for increased storage on the east side of the elevator.
On March 6, 1989, the Vancouver Terminal ceased all operations in preparation for a major upgrading of the trackshed area, cleaning facilities, and the distribution system. The terminal commenced unloading cars approximately ten months later, in December 1989.
The trackshed area undertook a new unloading concept, allowing only hopper car unloads. The track scale was replaced by a batch weight scale, and car progressors were utilized for spotting cars.
Existing barley and wheat cleaners were replaced with four rotary barley cleaners, and three new wheat cleaner sections, which increased the cleaning capabilities immensely. The new distribution system allowed for a more efficient movement of grain within the terminal.
Management of the terminals took a new approach with the operations of the two Thunder Bay terminals. Previously, both houses handled Canadian Wheat Board grains, but that system changed so that one terminal strictly handled wheat, barley and oats, and the other handled flax, rye, canola and speciality crops. The new approach not only provided more flexibility, but also enhanced the types and amounts of grains and specialty crops the Company could sell.
Crop Production Services - Crop Production Products
The Grain Growers' Grain Company Ltd. first entered the farm supply field when a flour mill was leased in Rapid City, Manitoba, in 1913. The same year, other supplies like apples and coal were sold to farm customers. At first, producers were reluctant to sell their products through farmer-owned organizations. This changed, however, when the Company demonstrated the variety and amount of products that could be sold to farm customers.
The Alberta Farmers' Co-operative Elevator Company Limited set up a Farm Supplies Department in its first year (1913) to handle flour and feeds. Later, twine, coal, barbed wire, and salt, as well as fruit and vegetables, were added.
The Company continued to sell farm supplies throughout the years although commodities changed to meet conditions. After a brief experiment, the handling of farm machinery and lumber was discontinued as the handling of these commodities was a specialized business which did not fit the Company's structure. While fruit and vegetables sales disappeared, new commodities such as fertilizer, livestock and poultry feeds and 2,4-D weed killer were later added.
For many years, twine and coal were the backbone of the Company's sales. Twine continued as a commodity, but coal sold at just a few locations in later years. In the 1990/91 crop year, crop protection products accounted for 63.18% of farm supplies' sales and fertilizer accounted for 36.8% of sales.
The United Grain Growers Limited long recognized the need to provide complete Crop Production services to its shareholders and customers. The value of these services and the competition it provided in the farm community was recognized by the total agricultural industry. It was the policy of the Crop Production Services to provide the best value in each product handled, in quality, services, and price. Crop Production products were normally sold on a low-earnings basis. The United Grain Growers Limited believed that the Crop Production Services should not be subsidized by other departments but that sufficient profit should be generated to assure the continued maintenance and expansion of facilities to meet the changing needs of its customers.
This policy allowed U.G.G. to maintain and expand its share of the western Canadian crop production market and to respond to changing needs and technologies.
1906 (27 January) Organization meeting, Sintaluta, Saskatchewan
1906 (20 July) Date of Original Charter
1906 (26 July) First meeting of Provisional Directors; E.A. Partridge appointed President
1906 (21 September) First car of grain received
1906 (8 November) Trading privileges on Winnipeg Grain Exchange cancelled
1906 (December) Partridge, Kennedy and Spencer pledged personal assets to keep bank from closing out the Company account
1907 (5 February) First General Meeting of Shareholders
1907 (15 April) Trading privileges on Winnipeg Grain Exchange restored
1907 (16 July) First Annual Meeting of Company, T.A. Crerar appointed President and General Manager
1908 (June) First issue of Grain Grower's Guide
1909 (20 May) The Public Press Limited established
1911 (19 May) The Company received Dominion Charter
1912 (July) Company began country elevator operations
1912 (October) Company began terminal elevator operations
1913 (25 March) Alberta Farmers Co-operative Elevator Company Limited incorporated
1913 (May) Farm Supplies Department opened
1916 (March) Livestock branch opened
1917 (August) Vaughan Street building occupied by the Public Press Limited
1917 (1 September) The Grain Grower's Grain Company and Alberta Farmers Co-op. Elevator Company amalgamated to form the United Grain Growers Limited
1917 (9 October) The Grain Growers Guide Limited incorporated
1925 Commenced terminal elevator operations at Vancouver
1927 5,500,000 bushel terminal constructed at Port Arthur, Ontario
1928 (28 March) Name of the Grain Growers Guide changed to The Country Guide
1930 (16 January) R.S. Law appointed President & General Manager
1936 Country Guide purchased Nor'West Farmer
1943 Elevators purchased from Gillespie Grain Company Limited
1947 110 elevators purchased from Reliance Grain Company
1948 (1 January) J.E. Brownlee appointed General Manager
1948 (1 May) J.E. Brownlee appointed President
1952 A 1,000,000 bushel annex constructed at Port Arthur Terminal
1953 (29 September) Purchase by Public Press Limited of Canadian Cattlemen
1954 65 elevators purchased from Midland and Pacific Grain Corporation Limited
1955 (25 August) Purchase by Public Press Limited of Canadian circulation of Country Gentlemen
1957 (24 July) Cornerstone laid for Public Press building on Ellice Avenue, Winnipeg
1958 (18 September) Official opening of new Public Press building combined with commemoration of 50th Anniversary of the first issue of The Grain Growers Guide
1959 (16 April) 129 elevators and terminal purchased from Canadian Consolidated Grain Company
1959 (23 September) Collapse of Outshore Terminal Annex at Port Arthur Terminal
1961 (24 March) Agreement signed with Canwest Grain Company Limited covering purchase of their assets including seed plants at Edmonton and Winnipeg and five country elevators in the Peace River area of Alberta
1961 (8 June) L. Driscoll appointed General Manager
1961 (1 July) A.M. Runciman elected President
1961 Construction completed of a 4,250,000 bushel terminal annex at Port Arthur replacing the smaller annex lost in 1959
1961 (1 August) U.G.G. entered the forage and seed business with the purchase of the properties of Canada West Grain Company and Red River Grain Company Limited, consisting of two seed cleaning plants and five country elevators
1963 (January) Publication of a new series of bulletins, The Grain Grower
1964 U.G.G. carried out the largest country construction program of its history — fourteen elevators and twenty annexes were completed
1965 Amendment to the Parliamentary Charter in 1965 provided for an increase in authorized capital from $7,500,000 to $12,000,000, an increase from 250 to 2,500 in the number of A shares that can be held by any one shareholder, and authorization to declare an additional dividend on Class A shares
1966 A new company incorporated — United Feeds Limited
1966 (November) Purchase of the terminal elevator at Vancouver, formerly operated under lease from the National Harbours Board
1968 (28 February) Purchase from the McCabe Grain company of a terminal elevator at Port Arthur and country elevators at 72 points
1970 (February) U.G.G. and the three Wheat Pools combine to incorporate XCAN Grain Limited
1972 (July) Terminal pelleting operation transferred to the Grain Growers Export Company Limited
1972 (July) All country feed mills transferred to United Feeds Limited
1974 (January) Sale of XCAN shares to three Prairie Wheat Pools
1974 (August) Company re-entered the sales market for sale of non-Board grains, export grain and domestic feed grain
1976 (April) Field Service operations centralized in Winnipeg. Approved major alterations to Vancouver Terminal at a cost of $20.8 million
1976 (September) Seed Division operation centralized in Winnipeg
1977 (November) After 60 years Head Office moved to 433 Main Street, Winnipeg
1978 (January) Specialty Crops Department set up to market corn, sunflowers, lentils, favabeans, buckwheat and other specialty crops
1980 (July) A record 4,235,000 tonnes of grain handled and Company net earnings of $9,195,000
1980 (September) Purchase of one-half of B.C. Packers' shares in United Oilseeds Products Limited
1981 (5 November) A.M. Runciman retired as Director and President
1981 (6 November) L.F.J. Hehn of Markinch, Saskatchewan, elected President
1982 (September) United Feeds purchased a Feed Mill (Dufferin Feed Service Ltd.), and entered feed business in Carman, Manitoba
1983 (August) Gordon D. Moss retired as General Manager
1983 (September) Gerry W. Moore appointed General Manager
1983 (November) D.R. Cusitar of Russell, Manitoba, elected First Vice-President
1984 (31 July) Earnings of $27.9 million, the highest in company history
1985 (17 January) Joint Venture Project with Allelix Incorporated to develop a Hybrid Canola variety
1985 (5 September) Acquisition of a feed lot at Sanford, Manitoba, operated under the name United Beef Feeders
1986 (1 August) Field Service Department restructured; District Managers took over the duties of Field Services
1986 (1 August) Five Area Offices reduced to three: Eastern, Central and Western
1986 (1 August) Establishment of a research and consulting enterprise, FarmDecision Resources
1987 (14 December) Company joins Canadian Agricultural Policy Alliance
1988 (October) United Oilseed Products crushing plant shut down due to negative crush margins
1989 (July) Sale of Innisfail, Alberta Pet Food Plant to Ralston Purina
1989 (Fall) Subsidiary Companies, Country Guide, Livestock Feeds and Terminals, officially dissolved
1989 (November) Purchase of food packaging division of Archibald Brokerage Limited
1989 (10 November) Mr. Ted Allen elected Senior Vice-President and Chief Executive Officer
1990 (16 November) Ted Allen of Taber, Alberta elected President and Chairman of the Board
1990 (31 December) G. Moore, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, retired
1991 (1 January) B. Hayward appointed Chief Executive Officer
1991 (20 June) Company sold its 50% interest in United Oilseed Products of Lloydminister. Its share of losses in the oilseed crushing business since 1974 amounted to over $13 million
1991 (8 July) Sale of Printing Division and Public Press Printing
1992 (21 February) Head office moved to the Toronto Dominion Centre, 201 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba
2001 (1 November) Merged with Agricore (formed by the consolidation of the Manitoba and Alberta Wheat Pools) to form a new company, Agricore United
Scope and Content
The United Grain Growers Company was founded in 1906 under the name of the Grain Growers Grain Company Limited. In 1917 it amalgamated with the Alberta Farmers Co-operative Elevator Company Limited, thereby forming the UGG. The collection documents these early years, and in some instances, there are records which illustrate aspects of the grain industry at the end of the nineteenth century. The collection presently fills some 84 containers, and occupies 39 linear feet of shelf space. The collection includes early documentation and by-laws, through the financial records, correspondence, countless submissions to inquiries and Royal Commissions, as well as statistical information on many subjects dealing with agriculture in general, elevator records, publications and the wheat pools. Furthermore, there are specific records which deal with the 6 subsidiary companies owned by the UGG.
Collection Reference: MSS 76, PC 83