This project explores how global commodities influenced modern agriculture and land use in Canada and the U.S. It focuses on Canada’s “other oil,” triglycerides, and how the development of new consumer goods created a global oilseed industry, first in flax and cottonseed, but later in soybeans, sunflower, corn, and Canola. The role of the European wheat market is well known in Prairie historiography, but the rapidly growing chemical sector also helped shape the Plains during the Second Industrial Revolution. Flax and firewood may seem like obscure topics, but I argue that small shifts in the consumption of ordinary commodities had major ripple effects across North American landscapes.
The Great Plains Population and Environment Project has been using historical climate data for their US research for almost two decades, and we will be using similar methods in the Canadian case studies. Second, I'm working on a specific paper this Fall that examines an early form of "precision agriculture" in the West -- the collection of massive amounts of weather and crop data by agricultural corporations. Third, I'm just generally interested in how farmers understood and gauged weather patterns over time.
Dr. Josh MacFadyen is a postdoctoral fellow in environmental history at the University of Saskatoon.