Matador Co-operative Farm Association, 1946-1974

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Matador Co-operative Farm Association, 1946-1974

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Matador Co-Operative Farm Association was the first and the longest surviving of the Second World War veterans' co-operative farms. It began in 1946, with a group of 17 veterans who wished to farm but knew they could not afford to do so as individuals. They purchased land which had originally been the Matador Ranch near Kyle, Saskatchewan and Local Improvement District (L.I.D.) land in the area and began to develop their farm. Their first President was Lorne Dietrick and their long time Secretary-Treasurer was William Zazelenkchuk.

The Honourable John Sturdy, provincial Minister of Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, recognized that supporting co-operative farming might be a way to re-integrate many of the thousands of veterans returning home at the end of World War II as well as one possible solution to the problems of market instability, high input costs and rural isolation. He gave Matador, as well as other veteran co-operative farms much support in the early years.

Not all of the veterans were well suited to co-operative farming and some left the Matador group. New applicants would be asked what they could contribute to the Matador co-operative in terms of land, veteran's entitlement and/or cash. They would be credited with their contribution and with their hours of work at the time of distribution of payments. New members were selected by the membership of the farm co-operative and given a trial period to see if they were suitable. If members left the farm they were reimbursed for their equity in a manner described in the bylaws of the organization.

Much of the larger community initially saw co-operative farms as communistic. The Wheat Board sought to provide only one permit book to the Matador farm instead of allowing one permit book to each farmer. The taxation department insisted on taxing the farm as a corporation, with the result that more income tax was owed than would have been if each member of the co-operative farm filed as an individual. Despite these problems the Matador Co-Operative farmers overcame obstacles, diversified their agricultural base and ran a very successful operation, including grain, cattle, sheep, chickens and turkeys. Dominant society norms of competitiveness, individuality, hierarchy and loyalty to the nuclear family unit challenged the co-operative spirit in many of the co-operative farms; Matador Co-Operative Farm Association was not entirely immune to these norms.

Changes occurred in membership over the years. As single men married and began to raise families there were houses built for them with garden space. In 1956 and 1957 the farm experienced a period of turmoil when land which had been leased under individual names was available for sale. Individual farmers could take their land and leave the co-operative or put their land into co-operative equity. Two members, did, in fact leave at that time. By 1974 there were 13 outgoing members.

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