Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
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: Co-operative Vegetable Oils Ltd.


Co-operative Vegetable Oils Ltd.

Administrative History

Co-operative Vegetable Oils Ltd. (C.V.O.) began in Altona, Manitoba in 1943 under the direction of J.J. Siemens. Siemens was an active member in the Mennonite community having been both a school teacher and a farmer. Siemens was also part of the Rhineland Agricultural Society (est. 1931) which was established to develop better agricultural practices - especially through education and experimentation. Equally important was Siemens' belief in the co-operative movement, most notably the development of various Credit Unions.

C.V.O. began in 1943 largely because Second World War Canadian imports of edible vegetable oils (from Russia and Argentina) were noticeably reduced, creating a need for domestic production. To support the domestic industry, the federal government offered such incentives as price subsidies, transportation subsidies, and facilities for processing the crop in Hamilton, Ontario. Although the 1943 crop was shipped to Hamilton, the high costs of long distance transportation of sunflowers - the principle oilseed crop - proved discouraging. Consequently, with a view to the future when these subsidies would be lifted, C.V.O. decided in favour of a local processing plant. This scheme, half-heartedly endorsed by the provincial government, satisfied the needs of the local community, which backed the project enthusiastically. The Altona plant was to cost a projected $60,000, half of which would be raised from private funds, with the remainder coming from guaranteed loans from the provincial government. The community eagerly threw its support behind the plant as it offered long-term economic growth and stability. As farming became increasingly mechanized, farm labour diminished leaving little employment for the young, thus contributing anxiety to the otherwise closely knit Mennonite family structure. Furthermore, wheat prices had not increased significantly since the depression, and the family farm was suffering. However, the C.V.O. plant provided jobs for locals and an outlet for the alternative crop, the sunflower, and later adding soybeans and canola in the 1950s.

C.V.O.'s list of achievements include: the development of Safflo oil as its first consumer product in 1949, the first oilseed crushing plant in Canada, the first company to commercially process sunflowers in North America, the first North American company to process pure sunflower-based cooking oil, and a strong role in the development of canola as an "oilseed".

To meet growing needs, C.V.O. officially merged with Manitoba Pool and Saskatchewan Pool on April 1, 1975, coming under the new name CSP Foods. CanAmera Foods purchased CSP Foods on March 20, 1992.

Scope and Content

The entire era of Co-operative Vegetable Oils Ltd. is covered in five minute books, placed at the beginning of the collection. Other aspects of the parent company, such as Gardenland Foods, are also held but make up only  a small component of the collection. Together with annual reports, company histories, industry histories, reports, and files regarding the 1975 merger, these minutes offer the researcher a relatively complete look at Co-operative Vegetable Oils Ltd. Many newspaper clippings are also included, the majority of which are in scrapbooks. The audio/visual component of the collection has been separated and held as PC 90 and TC 64.


Collection Reference: MSS 95, PC 90, TC 64
Inclusive Dates: 1943-1975
Collection Contents: 1 m. of textual records, 1200 photographs and slides, 2 audio tapes, and 1 film
Access Conditions: None


Co-operative Vegetable Oils Ltd. fonds

Finding aid available