|HISTORY/BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH: ||The United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) was formed on January 14, 1909. It ceased to exist on January 14, 1949 when it amalgamated with the Alberta Farmers' Union; the new organization was known as the Farmers' Union of Alberta.|
The proposed constitution presented by the Alberta Farmers' Association and the Canadian Society of Equity regarding their possible union recommended a non-political organization, which would not endorse the policy of any political party nor the candidature of any politician. The primary objective of this new organization would be to forward the interests of the producers of grain and livestock and to obtain profitable prices for all of the products of farm and orchard. The UFA was officially formed on January 14, 1909, with objectives of fostering and encouraging through cooperative effort the improvement of the moral, intellectual and financial status of the farmer, enriching and improving rural life by receiving more of the necessities, comforts and conveniences of modern times, advocating for proper recognition for agriculture as is justified by its importance in provincial and federal affairs, as well as influencing and promoting legislation and any legitimate action necessary in fulfilling their objectives. The UFA was later incorporated under a private bill, An Act to incorporate the United Farmers of Alberta (S.A. 1918, chapter 56). By this act, the main objective of the UFA was outlined: to cooperate in promoting, fostering and advancing the moral, material, financial and business interests of farmers and ranchers in Alberta. Causes, such as women's suffrage and prohibition, found much support among UFA members.
In 1916, William Irvine and Harry Johnson established the Non-Partisan League, the self-proclaimed political arm of the UFA. Following the success of the UFA with regard to women's suffrage and prohibition, many farmers thought the UFA should abandon their non-political stance and enter politics. In 1919, a resolution was approved at the Annual Convention permitting the locals to use the organization for the purpose of nominating and electing UFA candidates in that constituency. There was some hesitation on UFA's entry into politics, especially from Henry Wise Wood, the UFA's president at the time. Nevertheless, in November 1919, the UFA ran its first candidate, Alex Moore, who won the provincial by-election in Cochrane, Alberta. On June 27, 1921, Robert Gardiner won in the Medicine Hat federal by-election. In the 1921 provincial election, forty-four of the sixty Alberta constituencies nominated UFA candidates; of these, thirty-eight candidates were elected. The UFA had hoped for farmer representation in the legislature; they ended up forming the government. Henry Wise Wood was first choice as premier, but refused, preferring to remain as UFA president. John E. Brownlee, UFA solicitor, was also offered the post and refused, feeling a farmer should be premier. As a result, Herbert Greenfield became Alberta's first UFA premier. He resigned from office on November 23, 1925 and was succeeded by John E. Brownlee. Brownlee led the government for almost nine years, resigning amid scandal on July 10, 1934. He was replaced by Richard G. Reid, the last UFA premier.
The UFA government faced difficult challenges, supporting UFA ideas and policies, while not neglecting the non-farmers of the province. It was a time of economic hardship as well, with the last part of their leadership falling during the Depression. By the early 1930s, a gulf between the movement and the government had widened, resulting in UFA delegates at the 1932 provincial convention voting to accept the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) as its political arm, which had fundamental social reconstruction as one of its main objectives. In the provincial election on August 22, 1935, the UFA lost every legislative seat it had held, many previous supporters preferring to back the new Social Credit party. Also that year, none of the UFA federal members were reelected. In January 1939, UFA delegates voted to cease all political activity.
Through the political activities and after political defeat, the UFA remained an organization to defend and promote the interests of farm people. The UFA, however, had been losing support throughout the 1930s. The Social Credit party, under the leadership of William Aberhart, had usurped much of the political support their organization had held. Some farmers were also drawn to other farm organizations, such as the more militant Alberta Farmers' Union. At a joint convention held in December 1948, delegates from the UFA and the Alberta Farmers' Union met, and set up a constitution and by-laws for a new organization of farmers to be known as the Farmers' Union of Alberta. At the 40th Annual UFA Convention, UFA delegates passed a resolution on January 14, 1949 to wind up the affairs of the UFA and turn over their assets to this new organization.
The United Farmers of Alberta was created on January 14, 1909 when Alberta Farmers' Association and the Canadian Society of Equity amalgamated. These two groups had attempted to amalgamate in 1906, and then again in 1908; this 1908 attempt resulted in the formation of the United Farmers of Alberta in 1909.
The United Farmers of Alberta amalgamated on January 14, 1949 with the Alberta Farmers' Union. The new organization that resulted was the Farmers' Union of Alberta. This organization was reorganized as Unifarm in 1970, and then the Wild Rose Agricultural Producers in 1996.
Two organizations worked in parallel to the UFA: the United Farm Women of Alberta, and the Junior United Farmers of Alberta. They each had a certain degree of autonomy, and had their own executives who were represented on the UFA provincial board.
Much of the activity and power of the United Farmers of Alberta resided with the Locals. The UFA locals were responsible for most of the work of the UFA. The UFA held Annual Conventions, which were attended by delegates from the various locals. There were 122 locals active in the first year of the UFA. The locals were responsible for formulating UFA policy, as they brought resolutions to UFA conventions, though beginning about 1918, resolutions went to the constituency convention first. The locals also sought out, educated and signed up new members. Locals had a wider scope of activities including establishing cooperative enterprises, building UFA halls, promoting better education and better living in their communities. In 1931, the UFA had just over 1,200 locals. This had fallen to about 300 by 1939.
When established, the UFA provincial executive consisted of the president, four vice-presidents and the provincial secretary, all of whom were elected by convention delegates. About 1918, the number of vice-presidents was reduced to one. When the UFA dissolved, the Executive consisted of a president, a vice-president, the president of the women's section and three directors elected from the board following the annual convention. The UFA was managed by the Central Board, which included the exclusive along with the regional directors.
Presidents of the United Farmers of Alberta: James Bower, 1909-1912; W. J. Tregillus, 1912-1914; D.W. Warner (acting) 1914-1915; James Speakman, 1915; Henry Wise Wood, 1916-1931; Robert Gardiner, 1931-1945; George Church, 1945-1949.