The Corporate Archives curates physical and digital exhibits from our collections to tell BMO’s story over the years. Our aim is to provide a better understanding of the defining moments in our history.

BMO and Agriculture

Over the course of more than 200 years of operation, BMO has cultivated an extensive relationship with the agricultural community, helping farmers make progress toward their personal and financial goals. This exhibit looks at the many ways in which BMO has encouraged economic agricultural growth and engaged with the men and women who make up this important community.

1836 – Agriculture and the first Bank of Montreal tokens

The bank’s longstanding relationship with agriculture as an economic activity is reflected in its “Trade & Agriculture” tokens, which were first minted in 1836. Known as “bouquet sous” because the front side was decorated with roses, thistles, and shamrocks tied in a ribbon – the symbols of England, Scotland and Ireland, respectively – the bouquet on the BMO token also includes ears of wheat, representing one of Canada’s staple agricultural exports.

Image: Trade & Agriculture token, 1836.

1881-1913 – Gateway to the West

As a result of the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1881, combined with a robust promotional campaign for western settlement starting in 1896, Winnipeg and its surrounding areas experienced a significant population boom. The agricultural community specifically experienced an increase in their number as Marquis wheat, otherwise known as “Manitoba No. 1 Hard”, became known for its high yield and amenability to growing conditions in prairie soil.

Bank of Montreal opened a branch in Winnipeg in 1877 to grow the nucleus of the Canadian grain trade. This established presence enabled the bank to provide essential financing for grain farmers and merchants looking to make progress towards their agricultural and financial goals.

Image: Photograph of Winnipeg Main Office, c. 1913.

WW2 – Farming on the home front

During the Second World War, Bank of Montreal was committed to supporting food production not only for domestic consumption, but also for export to Britain and troops on the frontlines.

Advertisements from the period detailed financing options for both increasing production on farms and exporting shipments to Britain. Farmers too occupied with food production to visit the bank were also able to make transactions by mail.

Image: “Farmers…You Can Borrow For Peace or War Production,” advertisement, 1941.

1944 – Farm Improvement Loans

Under the federal government’s Farm Improvement Loans Act, short-term and intermediate loans became more readily available to farmers. The purpose of the loans was twofold. First, they were designed to enable farmers to maximize production through the purchase of modern equipment and more livestock. Second, the loans were intended for farmers to provide their homes with systems such as heating and refrigeration, thereby improving living conditions on farms.

Farm Improvement Loans were particularly popular among BMO customers. By 1966, the bank had provided these loans to more than 45,700 farmers.

Image: Farm Improvement Loans booklet, 1946.

1960s – Wheat trade with China

In 1929, A.S. Minnion (Manager, Foreign Department) visited China. He encountered several Canadians conducting business in Shanghai, including a representative of the Canadian Wheat Board, who expressed a need for Canadian banking services in China.

This need would only increase by the 1960s, when wheat accounted for 93% of Canadian exports to China. As one of the few banks in North America to finance trade transactions with China at the time, Bank of Montreal played a pivotal role in facilitating Canada’s agricultural exports.

Image: Photograph of Bank of Montreal representative office, Hong Kong, c. 1969.

1965-1967 – Canada Centennial Farm Leadership Awards

To commemorate Canada’s Centennial and the bank’s 150th anniversary, BMO awarded $2,000 to 50 farmers to carry out a project. The aim of the awards was to help Canadian farmers contribute in some notable way to the future development of rural Canada.

Instructions were distributed in November 1965 and two committees were subsequently formed in Eastern and Western Canada to select winners from the pool of 700 applicants.

Award winners were as young as 22 with projects ranging from seed-potato production and marketing to women’s leadership in farm organizations. The bank also sponsored seminars for award winners to ensure that the projects could be carried out successfully.

Image: Photograph of Farm Leadership Awards winners at seminar, Fort Garry, Winnipeg, 1966.

1978 – Introducing FirstBank Agri-Services

In 1978, BMO launched the FirstBank Agri-Services campaign. The campaign was designed to illustrate the numerous and varied services the bank provided to accommodate the growing complexities of Canadian farming.

Pamphlets and advertisements, which continued to be printed throughout the mid-1980s, featured information about farm mortgages and investments, fixed-rate loans for livestock, financing for machinery, and farm creditor insurance.

Image: FirstBank Agri-Services booklet, 1978.

1966-Present – Farm Family Awards

BMO continues to strengthen its relationship with farmers by partnering annually with the Calgary Stampede to present the Farm Family Awards. The awards recognize farm families in southern Alberta who have made a difference in their communities and the province’s agricultural industry. Recipients are honoured with an awards reception at the Stampede with Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture in attendance.

Image: Photograph of commemorative farm gate sign held by a Farm Family Award recipient, 2018.