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The University of Manitoba campuses are located on original lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation. More

Archives of the Agricultural Experience: The Archives of United Grain Growers Ltd.



The Archives of United Grain Growers Ltd.

Administrative History

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 toThe 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 ofCanadian 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
Inclusive Dates: 1906-1992
Collection Contents: 17.5 meters of textual records, 643 photographs, 2 motion picture films
Access Conditions: None

Preface to the Collection

Preface to the Collection

On 17 October 1877, the first shipment of western Canadian wheat destined for an overseas market left Winnipeg by flatboat up the Red River. Precisely one hundred and thirteen years later on 17 October 1990, the United Grain Growers Limited, headquartered in Winnipeg, donated its corporate archives of valuable historical material to the University of Manitoba. Established in 1906 at Sintaluta, Saskatchewan as the Grain Growers Grain Company Limited, the company amalgamated with the Alberta Co-operative Elevator Company Limited in 1917 to form the United Grain Growers Limited. Owned and directed by western farmers, the "UGG" operates hundreds of country elevators throughout the prairie west, maintains grain terminals at the Lakehead and on the west coast, buys and ships farmers' grain, and produces chemicals, fertilizers, seed and other agricultural products and services. United Grain Growers has published various farm-oriented magazines, the most notable of which are the Country Guide and the Canadian Cattlemen.

Now housed and preserved in the Department of Archives and Special Collections on the third floor of the Dafoe Library, the UGG collection is an historical treasure of minute books, correspondence, internal studies and reports, rare and unique pamphlets and other publications on the farmer and the grain trade, a full run of the information-laden Country Guide beginning in 1909, a wide range of photographs and much more. A late added feature, commissioned by the company for its 75th anniversary, is a collection of almost three hundred histories of UGG locals in towns and cities throughout the four western provinces. The collection is open to responsible research and inquiry.

This finding aid is designed to accommodate future accessions of incoming archival material. Additional sheets describing new materials will be prepared, as needed, for insertion in the appropriate section.

Jeffrey M. Long processed the collection according to high archival standards and prepared this excellent research tool. He is to be commended for his fine efforts.

The University of Manitoba wishes to express its thanks to the United Grain Growers Limited for entrusting its valuable archives with the university. It has already become a foundation to the efforts to establish a fine, new research facility--"The Archives of the Agricultural Experience."

Richard E. Bennett, Head
Department of Archives and
Special Collections
October 1992

Collection Description


The Department of Archives and Special Collections of the University of Manitoba acquired the United Grain Growers collection over the space of two years. The original gift, which is the largest portion of the collection, was donated 9 July and 9 August 1990 and given the accession number A.90-35. In mid-November of 1990, a further donation was made and accessioned as A.90-70. Six additional accessions were received in 1992. Thus this present collection is the sum total of eight accessions, spanning twenty-two months.

The formal deed of gift by which the company ceded ownership to these materials to the University of Manitoba was signed by then President and Chief Executive Officer, Lorne F. Hehn, on 17 October 1990. Copies of this transmittal document are available in both the Corporate Secretary's office of the United Grain Growers and the Department of Archives and Special Collections of the University of Manitoba.

Scope and Content

The United Grain Growers Limited 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 U.G.G. The collection documents these early years and, in some instances, 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, financial records, correspondence, submissions to inquiries and Royal Commissions, statistical information on many subjects dealing with agriculture in general, elevator records, and publications. Furthermore, there are specific records which deal with U.G.G.'s six subsidiary companies.

For further insight into the collection, the researcher is directed to the first U.G.G. company history (box 1, folder 1) and The Alberta Farmers Co-operative Elevator Company history (box 1, folder 5).


Researchers should be aware that it is impossible to cross-reference all archival information. There are many instances within this collection where a single item may belong in more than one place. Wherever possible, the original order has been maintained; however, this has proven difficult in those circumstances where several accessions contained material of a similar or identical nature. Thus it is advisable to examine all categories when searching for material. Nevertheless every effort has been made to bring together all similar items under the umbrella of specific subject headings.

In ideal circumstances, the researchers would view the entire collection. However, time and interest restraints seldom make this possible. In lieu of this, it is intended that the most important and the most central themes of the Company are addressed first and foremost in the collection. From there, the issues become more convoluted, and centre less around the heart of the company. For instance, the fact that the Company was the first completely farmer-owned company is a key plank in the U.G.G. platform. Thus, the researcher must understand the collection from the point of view of its general provenance. He or she is asked to understand that the U.G.G. has always attempted to emphasize its role as a co-operative and farmer-owned company. Nevertheless, the Company also belongs to the genre of big business. The arrangement of the material within this collection mirrors U.G.G.'s struggle to represent effectively these two sides of its make-up.

Separation Statement

The U.G.G. collection came to the Department of Archives and Special Collections requiring in excess of seventeen meters of shelf storage space. The processed collection now takes considerably less room (thirteen meters) as a result of processing and the separation of items. The separated material falls broadly into one of three categories: material extraneous to the collection, material separated for preservation purposes, and material which is held elsewhere on campus. The first category includes all duplications that were produced by the U.G.G. as well as files which were gathered by the U.G.G., but were not generated by the company. These records have not been documented. The second category of separated material involves the photographic collection. For the index of photos, see Section IV. The third category is composed of those documents which have been removed in order to improve other collections within the University of Manitoba Libraries and which do not impair the quality or the integrity of the collection held in this archive. These items are listed in Section V.

Access Regulations

In compliance with the deed of gift, the following conditions on access apply:

a) the donor allows free and equal access to all its papers held at the University of Manitoba provided that with respect to minutes of any board or committee proceedings, such access shall only be given to those persons who have received prior verbal or written approval from the donor which shall not be unreasonably withheld;

b) access shall be provided during regular business hours of the Department of Archives and Special Collections, University of Manitoba Libraries;

c) photocopying is permitted by users of the collection provided that such copies are for their own use and are made in accordance with the copyright laws of Canada; and

d) the University of Manitoba has the right to govern and restrict access by third parties to any part of the collection.

Image Gallery

U.G.G. Elevator, drawing 
PC 83, Box 1, 060, no. 1

United Grain Growers Ltd. Photograph Collection
Elevator and Tractor 
PC 83, no. 060

United Grain Growers Ltd. Photograph Collection
"UGG Terminal, Port Arthur"
PC 83, 061, no. 29

United Grain Growers Ltd. Photograph Collection
UGG Office, 1916 
From Left to Right: Richards, Mrs. Palmer, Miss Ledingham, Miss Samson
PC 83, 058, no. 4

United Grain Growers Ltd. Photograph Collection
Senator T.A. Crerar
PC 83, 058, no. 4

United Grain Growers Ltd. Photograph Collection
Board of Directors, Women’s Section, S.G.G.A., 1923
Back Row from Left to Right: Mrs. Frank Krips, Mrs. S.V. Haight, Miss I. Moore
Photo by Steele’s Studio, Saskatoon 
PC 83, 022