Food and Farming

Changing Food Choices


Whether people lived in a town near a farm or on the farm itself, they usually ate what was available regionally. In some areas of Canada, where the climate was not suited to growing fresh produce, some fruits and vegetables had to be brought in from elsewhere. Many people—not just farmers—grew, processed, and prepared a lot of their own food.

Oranges were a special treat for children at Christmas, because the freshly harvested fruit was rare and had to be imported from the United States.


By the 1950s, most Canadians could find a wide variety of foods at their local grocery store; they could also get meat at the butcher shop and milk products at the dairy. These farm products were just as likely to come from other parts of the country as from nearby farms. Many farmers sold directly to consumers at weekly markets in nearby towns and cities. With the availability of electricity and motorized farm equipment, farmers were able to supply more food than they had in earlier decades.


Nowadays, Canadians shop for food in many places: supermarkets, gas stations, drug stores, food specialty shops, farmers’ markets, and pick-your-own farms. Collectively, farmers can provide great volumes of food because many farms are large-scale, specialized operations. Farmers may take into account which crops best suit their land, the consumer market, the ongoing productivity of their farms, and the sustainability of the environment. In Canada, 98% of farms are family owned and operated.

The Kensington food market in Toronto, Ontario, 1986
Archives of Ontario RG16276183B819

Hooey and Son Grocers in Cobourg, Ontario, 1910
Archives of Ontario C 4-0-0-0-40
A grocery store in Weston, Ontario, 1947
Archives of Ontario 9508-10598-1
Canada Science and Technology Museum: CN Collection
Thanks to electricity and motorized farm equipment, farmers were able to supply more food, and to keep it fresh longer than they had in earlier decades.
Canada Agriculture and Food Museum: Agriculture Canada Collection

back to top