In Canada West of the 1860s, approximately 15% of farm land was operated by tenant farmers. By this time period, there was a shortage of good, cleared farm land in the south of the province and the government tried to encourage a new generation of pioneer settlement in the unpopulated counties of Muskoka, Haliburton and Renfrew. For those who wanted to farm but did not want to leave their home territory, tenancy was an alternative.
Between 1855 and 1866, in the area around Upper Canada Village, there was a 90% increase in the number of tenant farmers. Much of this farm-land was owned by several large land-holders who recognized the potential profit in owning large numbers of farms and renting them out to tenant farmers.
Many tenant farmers, however, dreamed of owning their own farms and tried to save the money to do so. Unlike farmers who owned or inherited their own land, tenant farmers only spent what was necessary on maintenance, equipment and general improvements. Thus, tenant farms often appeared to be run on a poorer level than their owner neighbours.
At the tenant farm here at Upper Canada Village, the farmer runs a smaller and more rudimentary operation than the nearby Loucks family. He uses a yoke of oxen instead of more expensive horses. He has fewer cows and does most of his farm work by hand instead of by machinery. The tenant farm wife still struggles to cook over an open hearth and has no fancy sitting room in which to spend her few leisure moments.
As many young tenant farming families of the 1860s, they continue to dream of a brighter future when they can afford to buy their own far