Seeds of Prosperity | Tomorrow’s World -- July/August 2024

Seeds of Prosperity

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Canada and the other English-speaking nations have been blessed with abundance that should never be taken for granted.

One hundred years ago, a significant majority of Canada’s population lived in agricultural areas. Today, like so much of the West, we find our society at least 90 percent urbanized. As a result, relatively few understand the work required to produce food, and thus fail to appreciate the importance of that work. Agricultural needs have become a very low priority for voters and politicians alike.

History reveals, however, that failures in agricultural production have resulted in the overthrow of many governments. For example, the crop failures of the late 1780s in France are considered a driving factor behind the French Revolution. The production of fruit and vegetables, milk and cheese, cattle and poultry, and especially grains, are truly at the core of a nation’s prosperity and security.

Over the past century, the English-speaking world has experienced surplus food production, even in times of war. Arguably, this is a major factor in the continuance of the wealth, power, and influence of those peoples—yet this was not always the case.

New World, New Wheat

In the early 1800s, the Great Plains of western Canada and the northern United States were being evaluated for their potential in agricultural production, especially with regard to grains. At that time, in regions of the land that is now known as Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the Dakotas, crop failures were frequent due to violent summer storms, hail, and all-too-common early frosts.

As new settlers came from Europe to the northern plains, they began to plant their most precious possession—good wheat seed. This was the case with one of the very first attempts at agriculture on the Great Plains: the Red River Settlement, founded in 1812 by Lord Selkirk and his colonists from the Scottish Highlands. The colonists endured many daunting hardships such as early frost, leading to several crop failures between 1812 and 1820.

Throughout that region, farmers were using a number of varieties of seed that was all European in origin. The length of time this seed took to reach maturity made it well suited to Europe’s climate, but presented a problem in the shorter summers of Canada, specifically on the northern plains. In those days, a crop failure could spell famine and starvation. A solution was needed.

Enter David Fife, a farmer in Peterborough County, Upper Canada (today Ontario) who, between 1842 and 1848, developed a variety of dark red wheat that became known as Red Fife. Because of its earlier maturity and excellent milling and baking quality, it had by 1876 become the dominant variety in Canada and much of the United States. While no longer grown extensively, Red Fife is still in demand among artisan bakers due to what bread experts view as its superior flavour and baking characteristics.

While Red Fife was an improvement, there was still a need for a high-quality wheat variety with a shorter growing season. Existing early-maturing varieties had lower yields and poor milling properties before Dr. William Saunders radically changed the face of agriculture in Canada and the American Northwest. In 1886, Ottawa appointed Saunders to direct the new Dominion Experimental Farms. His sons, most notably Charles Edward Saunders, became supporting researchers.

Over a six-year period of meticulous and painstaking crossbreeding experiments on wheat seeds from all over the world, a massive amount of information was collected, identifying characteristics of natural crossbreeding such as colour, milling and baking qualities, stem strength, and height—all compared to maturing time. By 1901, after 15 years of exhaustive work, including the failure of several large-scale plantings, they had produced 58 unique varieties. Yet none combined all of the desired qualities, and many observers felt that their work was in vain and should be discontinued. Yet Saunders and his sons persisted.

Their breakthrough came in 1904 when a variety was produced by crossing Red Fife (the male parent) with Hard Red Calcutta (the female parent). The result was a wheat that carried all of the properties that had originally been sought, and boasted a maturation time that was shorter by at least ten days—an absolutely vital quality. It was named Marquis wheat and is now the ancestor of most modern wheat varieties.

The first large field sowing of Marquis wheat occurred in 1909. In 1913, the first shipment of registered Marquis seed into the U.S. was a 100,000-bushel delivery. As early as 1915, Marquis wheat was becoming the dominant wheat in Canada and much of the United States’ northern plains.

Wheat for the World

What Saunders and his sons achieved led to a massive reduction in the crops lost to early frost and established the northern plains as one of the world’s great breadbaskets, with the new wheat strain making the region a much more secure source of continuous wheat production.

The timeliness of Saunders’ work—and that of his partner scientists—was particularly evident at the commencement of World War I in 1914. The Canadian Prairies were able to provide Britain and France with massive increases in a high-quality staple food. In fact, historians are quick to point to this as a key contributing factor to the Allies’ victory in both World Wars. “Marquis wheat greatly enhanced the war effort of not only Canada, but also that of its allies, the UK, France, Belgium and Greece” (George Fedak, “Marquis Wheat,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, March 4, 2015).

The development of Marquis has led to the ongoing development of wheat varieties that can better withstand drought, disease, and other threats to a global food supply. “Marquis has left a permanent legacy. It has been shown that virtually every wheat variety produced in Canada over the past 100 years traces back to crosses made with Marquis” (Canadian Encyclopedia). Truly, Dr. Saunders and his sons should be remembered with gratitude for their invaluable contribution.

It is also worth noting that the modern descendants of ancient Israel—of which Canada is a part—were promised that they would possess lands that would produce incredible bounty in both plants and animals, and that this blessing from God would continue unabated if they were obedient to God’s commands (Deuteronomy 28:1, 11–12). That these blessed lands went on to produce seemingly limitless quantities of nutritious food is not an accident and should be greatly appreciated rather than taken for granted. Even the efforts of dedicated researchers, agronomists, and farmers to produce such a bounty has been a great asset granted to this people. But these blessings were not given out of favoritism; they were intended to facilitate these nations’ fulfillment of an even greater purpose.

To learn more about the reasons behind this generous gift from God, please go online to or contact the Regional Office nearest you (listed on page 4 of this magazine) to read or request a free copy of our inspiring and revealing study guide The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy.


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