Interactive Quiz: Gifts of the Land

The production and preservation of food is critical in any era. In this activity, you will discover how early settlers in Eastern Ontario grew, raised and preserved food in contrast to modern methods.

Treena Hein, Betty Biesenthal, Jeff Fox
Rory MacKay, Martha Burchat, Betty Biesenthal
1800 - 1950
Ontario, CANADA
© 2007, Davenport Centre - Heritage Hall. All Rights Reserved.


The production and preservation of food is critical in any era. In this activity, you will discover how early settlers in Eastern Ontario grew, raised and preserved food in contrast to modern methods.

Settlers had to convert forests to fields and then grow crops. Which of the following steps DO NOT belong in this process?
a) burn forest
b) cut down trees
c) clear logs, stumps and stones
d) plow earth
e) plant seeds
A: a)
Forest fires were too dangerous to be set intentionally. Clearing, cultivating and planting were done by settlers and their animals. Fields were protected from predatory animals and birds using scarecrows, dogs, cats and fences. Gardens were planted close to the house for security and convenience.
Photo: pitchfork and scythe

The settlement diet consisted of many preserved foods. Preserved food was and still is important because it:
a) tastes better
b) is nutritious
c) is available year-round
d) reduces waste
e) all of above
A: d
Today, as yesterday, if crops and the meat of slaughtered livestock are not properly preserved and stored, they spoil. Some foods are not available year round, but we can still eat them in preserved forms although sometimes nutrients and flavour are reduced in processing.

Based on preservation techniques used by settlers, which of the following statements are correct?
a) produce was canned, dried & pickled
b) meat & fish were smoked & canned
c) wheat was ground into flour
d) corn & oats were ground into meal
e) all of above
A: e
All these methods were used to get a settlement family through winter because money and grocery stores were scarce. Today, many more foods are available in every season due to the use of greenhouses and the ability to transport food economically over long distances. These fresh foods from afar are preserved using methods such as picking before ripeness, using gases and waxes to prevent contact with the air, and genetic selection.

Even though money was scarce for settlers, it was used to purchase a few important food-related items. Which did they NOT need to buy?
a) coffee, black tea, sugar, salt
b) garden seeds
c) fertilizer
d) preserving jars, garden tools
e) all of above
A: c
Settlement farms had a ready supply of animal manure to fertilize crops. All the other items are essential to the raising and preservation of food. It should be noted that some seeds were harvested, dried and saved for planting the following year. Coffee and black tea could not be grown in Canada.

Most settlement farms had a root cellar or root house. It was used to store:
a) homemade wine
b) ice blocks
c) root vegetables
d) tree roots for burning
e) all of above
A: c
A root cellar is a wood-framed storage space dug into the earth where root vegetables (potatoes, turnip, carrots) and other food was kept cool and safe from animals. Similarly, an icehouse was a small building for storing large blocks of ice sawn from a lake in winter and insulated with sawdust. Pieces of this ice were broken off and placed in an ice chest in the house or in the root cellar.

Which of the following elements threatened food supplies in settlement times?
a) fire, extreme weather
b) war, civil unrest
c) disease
d) pests
e) all of above
A: e
Fire and weather (rain, drought, frost, hail), war and civil unrest, crop and animal disease, and pests (insect, bird, animal) all threatened food supplies in the settlement era. Some experts predict that global warming will cause unstable weather, which will in turn threaten future world food supplies.

Did settlers count on wild foods to enrich their diet?
a) yes
b) no
A: a
Settlers ate many wild foods including various berries, wild cherries, wild leeks and garlic, fiddlehead ferns, apples and more. Sap gathered from maples trees to make maple syrup has become a Canadian classic.
Photo: fiddleheads

We still eat many of the same foods consumed by early settlers because they are:
a) grown in our climate
b) economically viable
c) traditional
d) tasty and nutritious
e) all of the above
A: e
We eat many of the same foods that early settlers ate for all these reasons.

How do modern food preservation techniques compare to settlement methods?
a) different
b) similar
c) same
A: b
Many traditional preservation methods are still used including drying, pickling, canning and smoking. Modern techniques include freeze-drying, irradiation (food is radiated to kill microbes) and chemical food preservatives (to inhibit micro organisms).
Photo: strawberries

In terms of scale and variety how have food production systems, and agriculture in general, changed from the settlement era to modern times?
a) different
b) similar
c) same
A: a
Food production has changed significantly. Unlike early settlers, modern Canadians do not grow or raise a significant percentage of the foods they consume. We regularly purchase a great variety of food products from all over the world. Settlement farms were designed to provide fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat for one family. Modern farms specialize in specific crops and livestock on a much larger scale and with much more mechanization.

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