Transforming the Prairies
272 pages, 6 x 9
16 b&w photos, 11 maps, 2 charts
Release Date:03 Sep 2024

Transforming the Prairies

Agricultural Rehabilitation and Modern Canada

UBC Press

Created in 1935, the Canadian federal government’s Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) was active for over seven decades. An influential agency regionally, nationally, and internationally, the PFRA is often cited as being a model of effective government environmental management.

Transforming the Prairies critically reconsiders that interpretation, underlining the mixed and equivocal results of its agricultural rehabilitation efforts in and beyond the Canadian Prairies. The promotion of strip farming as a soil conservation technique, for example, left crops susceptible to sawfly infestations. The PFRA’s involvement in irrigation development in Ghana increased Ghanaians’ vulnerability to various illnesses. And the PFRA’s construction of infrastructure intended to serve the public good failed to account for the interests of affected Indigenous Peoples. Shannon Stunden Bower examines the intended and unintended results of agency activities in order to evaluate their ecological and social impact. She argues the PFRA was a high modernist state agency that produced varied environmental outcomes and that contributed to consolidating colonialism and racism.

Transforming the Prairies affirms the need to rethink the PFRA, not only to improve our understanding of Canadian and environmental history, but also to ensure that contemporary environmental management efforts support more just and sustainable futures.

This work is for scholars and students of Canadian history, particularly those engaged in environmental history, agricultural history, the history of the modern state, and the Prairie West. Policy makers and residents familiar with the PFRA in the Prairie provinces will also find it highly informative.

Transforming the Prairies is an ambitious, well-researched, clearly argued study of the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration. It also promises to reinterpret settler-state relations and offers a critical re-examination of the PFRA's impact on the environment. Royden Loewen, Department of History, University of Winnipeg

Shannon Stunden Bower is an associate professor in the Department of History, Classics, and Religion at the University of Alberta. She is the author of Wet Prairie: People, Land, and Water in Agricultural Manitoba, which won the Canadian Historical Association Clio Prize for the Prairies and the Manitoba Day Award from the Association for Manitoba Archives. She has also published articles in journals such as Environmental History and Agricultural History.

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