Rural Power - First Co-ops Catch Hold

Rural Power - First Co-ops Catch Hold

Think about it. Think about it - light bulbElectricity. What a wonderful thing! We flip a switch or push a button and power up our world - at work, home, play, inside and out, the convenience of power is all around us. We tend to only realize our dependency and confirm its value when there is a power outage. When we don't have it, we become aware of how connected we are to it.

Here is an excerpt from our history book, Country Power ~ The Electrical Revolution in Rural Alberta - read through this story and take a step back 65 years... 

A few farmers on the outskirts of Edmonton and near Sundre in central Alberta hadn’t been content to wait for electrification to gather momentum. Early in the 1940s, with the advantage of central station power nearby, they form six small co-ops with up to 50 members in each. The scheme worked well, just like the new electric farm equipment whirring in members’ barns.

With these examples of what could be done, the power companies attempted to encourage more farmers to form similar groups. In 1944, Canadian Utilities built Alberta’s first farm experimental area at Swalwell, near Drumheller. Seventy farms and a cheese factory got power.

In a letter published in a booklet entitled Electricity on the Farm, Claude Webb of Swalwell extolled the benefits power brought to him and his family. “Rural electrification on the farms of sunny Alberta is the greatest labour saver that modern science has given the agricultural industry of Alberta, particularly to those of us who make use of it.

“It not only assists us to produce more economically, but encourages us to modernize our farm homes and buildings and naturally creates a condition of permanency, which we must have if we hope to retain our farm-bred boys and girls on the farm. It not only lights our homes, yards, and buildings, but gives us modern plumbing and heating and elimination of farm drudgery in all our farm chores, inside and out.

“Before we were connected to the power line, we used gas engine power to milk, which cost us 15 cents per day for gas and oil. Doing the same chore with electricity, it cost us 4.6 cents per day…” 

wash day farm equipment circa 1940

As far back as the 1920s, a “rotary arm iron” attached to a drum washer took the dread out of washday. Farm women quickly recognized that rural electrification could end much of the drudgery that was part of housekeeping. 

Water tank farm circa - 1900-1950







The water tank was a familiar conveyance on Alberta farms in the first half of the century. Once farmers installed electric pumps to provide running water, the tanks became museum pieces, abandoned in a corner of the farmyard. 

(Source: Country Power ~ The Electrical Revolution in Rural Alberta - 1993/2013 (c) AFREA)

To read more on the history of Rural Electrification, check out our book. To order: click here