Sunday August 6, 2017
The Milky Way
An Alberta dairy family history
Dairy Farmers of Canada/Lenard Crozier photo
he story of the dairy farming Crozier family of Alberta began in 1849 with the birth of David Crozier near Stratford, Ontario.
In 1871, David’s family moved to Missouri where he married and took up farming on his own. This was followed by a move to Kansas with his wife and children in 1890.
TheCrozier family, 1960 recipient of the Alberta Master Farm Family Award. Below, Jason Crozier looking over the herd.
Hearing of the opportunities with land opening up in Western Canada, David was once more on the move. In 1896, he ventured to what is now Sturgeon County, just north of Edmonton, where he purchased Cutbank Farm from William Cust. This land, which lies on the shores of Cutbank Lake, has remained in the Crozier family for 120 years.
Today, David’s great grandson Lenard owns and operates Cheslen Dairies with his sons, Jason and Brett, on the same piece of land. Pioneering Days In the early years, David farmed with the help of his sons, Lloyd, John, and Kenneth.
Transforming unbroken land into productive soil in which crops could be grown was only one of the challenges they faced. With no gas or electricity to heat their home through Alberta’s harsh winters, David and his sons spent endless days chopping firewood.
As time progressed, there was enough work to require farmhands as well. With no money to pay them, helpers were satisfied to receive room and board in the Crozier’s home in exchange for their work. Neighbours helped neighbours, and slowly a community was born.
The original farming operation was comprised of horses, hogs, chickens, and enough cows to be considered a small dairy farm. All work was labour intensive. In the beginning, the Crozier’s sold their farm products locally, including butter made and packaged under the "Cutbank" brand.
The establishment of the dairy industry in Alberta is directly linked to the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The railway was part of Sir John A. Macdonald’s plan to settle the west and create an agriculture industry to feed the new country.
Although the two main sectors were wheat farming and cattle ranching, settlers did follow the main line of the railway and established dairy herds around Calgary and Edmonton. These farms supplied local demand for butter and cheese and in 1882 when Alberta was officially named, it had a small dairy industry which kept growing.
"I'm grateful for the work my ancestors put into building this farm," says Lenard Crozier. "I am even more proud to know that my family's longstanding tradition of producing high quality milk is continuing through my sons, Jason and Brett."
The 1885 census records 3,334 dairy cows in Alberta for 4,878 settlers. By the late 1880s, the supply of butter had exceeded demand which called for the creation of dairy factories and broader market outlets. The first dairy factory was opened by Ebenezer Healy in 1888, who set up a cheese factory on his farm.
Today, there are approximately 531 dairy farms in Alberta.