One of the oldest agricultural associations in Saskatchewan celebrates its 100th anniversary next week.
The Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association will meet in the place where it all began — Moose Jaw — and recognize its heritage beginning with a 10-team ranch rodeo competition and barn dance. The annual convention will follow.
Murray McGillivray, who was president from 1980 to 1982, said the voluntary, membership-based organization has had its ups and downs over 100 years but prevailed thanks to the cowboys who made it a priority.
“I think they’ll be around for quite a while because of the principle of the people, the core people,” he said. “And they have pretty deep roots.”
Men who wanted to make sure governments kept ranchers’ interests in mind when drafting legislation formed the SSGA in June 1913. The issues of the day included leases and taxes; those would recur over the years.
For the first half-century, the office of the SSGA tended to move with the secretary. When Don Perrin of Maple Creek, Sask., took over in the 1960s, the organization established the small town as its base until the permanent move to Regina in 1981.
“When I moved the office from Swift Current I moved a bank account of $2.84 and less than 200 members,” Perrin recalled.
“When I left we had a reserve of more than $100,000, and counting affiliates from the breed associations we represented 6,000 producers.”
The SSGA became the voice for cow-calf producers but one of the main criticisms has always been that it only represents the “big” ranches of the south.
McGillivray said he isn’t sure why the membership didn’t grow in the northern half of the agricultural belt. During his term he travelled to 32 different communities, mostly in the north, but made few inroads. Conventions continue to be held mainly in the south where the membership base is located.
“The facts are that, yes, there are some big ranches in the southwest but even in my time they didn’t control the cattle numbers in Saskatchewan,” he said.
“There was that stigma that haunted (the SSGA), that we were just a big cattle outfit. I was not a big cattleman at the time.”
Many SSGA members saw the advent of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association in the mid-2000s as a threat. All producers who pay checkoff are members by virtue of those payments, and the SCA took control of the checkoff from the SSGA.
However, the SSGA remains influential with government as it enters its second century retaining one of its original goals.