In 1887 Barnardo established an Industrial Farm near Russell, Manitoba for older and rougher boys who had grown up on the streets of London. The boys were to stay at the farm for a year, learning the basics of farming. After that they would be placed with farm families in Manitoba. Barnardo hoped that the strict training they received at the farm would improve their characters.
The boys lived in a large house on fourteen square miles of land. There was a dormitory that could sleep 200 boys in bunk beds along with a small jail for boys who broke the rules. When a visiting newspaper reporter was locked in the cell for a single minute, he observed that the narrowness of the confinement and the darkness made that minute quite enough for him. But, he wrote, the housemasters said some boys had been locked in the room for two and three days at a stretch.
Barnardo hired E.A. Struthers, a former railway land inspector, to run the farm. Some excerpts from Struthers' 1905 journal (Ref1, Ref2, Ref3, Ref4, Ref5, Ref6, Ref7, Ref8, Ref9, Ref10, Ref11) give a flavour of the life of a Barnardo boy in Manitoba:
While life on the Prairies may have been an improvement over starving on the streets of London, many Barnardo boys had a rough time of it. The farmers that took them in often viewed them as little more than hired help. Winnipeg Methodist minister J.S. Woodsworth worried that while the boys were being brought into the country as an act of charity, they were in fact being turned into cheap labourers. Although the farm in Russell was closed in 1908, following Dr. Barnardo's death, other child immigration schemes continued up until 1930.