Indigenous people were the first to cultivate the land in Manitoba. There is archeological evidence of corn being grown in Manitoba as early as the 1300-1400s in the area of what is now Lockport.

Before settlers arrived, the Anishinaabeg grew corn, potatoes, turnips, squash and other crops in areas around the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, along the shores of Lake Manitoba and as far north as the Swan River Valley. The establishment of European fur trading posts included gardens and small acreages of wheat, barley and oats as well as the introduction of cattle, poultry and hogs. 

The following is a summary of Manitoba’s agricultural history from the arrival of the first settlers.

History of European Agriculture in Manitoba from 1812

Prepared by Morris Deveson (2007)

Two aspects of our agricultural development make history particularly interesting, first the rapid progress in technology and secondly the people who made it all happen.

The first recorded agricultural immigrants in Manitoba were the Selkirk Settlers, also known as the Red River Settlers, who arrived in 1812 and settled along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, in an area generally referred to as the District of Assiniboia. These first settlers arrived by boat via York Landing (Hudson Bay) and Lake Winnipeg with little more than the clothes on their backs. They were forced to live off the land, with some help from the fur traders who did little to make them feel welcome and somewhat more help from Indigenous people, including Chief Peguis, who showed the settlers how to live off the land.

This was fur country. Lord Selkirk was repeatedly told by both foes and friends alike that his scheme to farm in Western Canada was an adventure in folly, assured only to failure. Fur traders said, “This is fur country. What stupidity to expect settlers to succeed in this land of ice and snow. This country is doomed to external sterility.”