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Nova Scotia: The Province that has been Passed By
Chapter XI. On the Government’s Farm


To me Truro had a twofold interest. The first was that it was the chief scene of the propaganda of that extraordinary Irishman, Colonel M‘Nutt, who figures so largely in that Romance of Emigration which some day I am going to write; and it is the theatre of that admirable new institution, new, so far as New Scotland is concerned, the Agricultural College and Government Experimental Farm.

After spending some days on this farm, I make bold to say that, in the hands of the zealous and energetic Professor Cumming, it is the best thing I saw in New Scotland, and, considering everything, one of the most perfect institutions of its kind on earth.

What a great advantage it is to come late! You benefit by the mistakes and the achievements of your forerunners. That is why, to take an instance at random, Budapest in the domain of hospital and urban sanitation is so superior to London. The Hungarians were thousands of miles behind the times a decade or two ago; when they decided to go ahead they were untrammelled by customs, habits, systems, and expensive old plants. From having nothing at all they acquired the best, the latest appliances of science. For generations Nova Scotia has been tinkering at agriculture. The soil of the province is so varied that the early pioneers did not know what to make of it. What would suit one part was hopeless in another. Instead of settling down, farmers migrated from one district, from one country to another. Some who sold their farms profited, others, who for want of application and also for want of knowledge, fared worse, until it was difficult for a stranger to ascertain with any sort of precision just what were the agricultural possibilities of the Province. Ninety years ago an enthusiastic agriculturist, John Young, published a remarkable series of letters under the num Je plume of “Agricola,” in which he gathered together all the current English ideas on the subject of scientific farming, and earnestly urged their adoption by his fellow-countrymen. These letters of Agricola in book form attracted wide attention. Young did more: he set about the forming and consolidation of agricultural societies throughout Nova Scotia, at which prizes were offered for stock cereals and vegetables, and for a time agriculture undoubtedly benefited. But many causes, external and internal, conspired to render farming in Nova Scotia a far less prosperous undertaking than it deserved to be. The constant exodus of the young men from the farms was a serious handicap; so was the exclusion of produce from the American markets, the remoteness of some possible markets, and the scantiness of others nearer home. But still the great obstacle to success was want of knowledge and want of method.

Some twenty-one years ago there was organised in the Province of Nova Scotia an Agricultural School, which achieved some excellent work, but which, owing to the lack of equipment, did not make the impression which might have been made had the institution been dealt with in a more generous manner. There was also carried on from the year 1896 a School of Horticulture at Wolfeville, which, like its sister institution in Truro, was carried on a rather too modest scale. However, after studying the institution at Guelph, and consulting with the professors at that institution, and with Dr. James Robertson, then Dominion Commissioner for Agriculture, the Government of Nova Scotia decided to incorporate these two institutions into one Agricultural College. This institution was formally opened n February 1905, under the principalship of Mr. Melville Cumming, a native of Nova Scotia, and a graduate of Dalhousie College, Halifax, and of the Ontario Agricultural College at Guelph. The faculty was composed of the Principal of the old School of Agriculture, the Principal of the School of Horticulture, the Superintendent of the Provincial Government Farm, together with lecturers from the Provincial Normal School, with which institution the College is affiliated. In addition, the service of some of the leading men at Guelph and Ottawa have, from time to time, been secured, especially to assist in the short courses. Beginning with an enrolment in the regular course of fifteen students, and in the short courses of sixty-eight, the College has, in three years, advanced to an enrolment of thirty-four in the full course, and one hundred and seventy-five students in the short course, and this, it must be remembered, in a constituency scarcely one-tenth larger than that from which the Ontario Agricultural College draws its pupils. While the College is primarily a Nova Scotian institution, yet its doors are thrown open to students from all the Maritime Provinces, the opportunity being taken advantage of by the young farmers of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick to the extent of sixteen and twenty-one students respectively. It is, moreover, the hope of those who are most interested in the institution that it shall become, in name as well as in fact, the Maritime College of Agriculture.

The College was purposely located in the same town, Truro, as the Provincial Normal School, :n order that the teaching staff at the latter institution might come in contact with the technical teaching of agriculture, and that, in turn, the agricultural students might profit from the literary and scientific teaching of the members of the

Normal School faculty. As a further effort at affiliation of the forces of these institutions, for the purpose of improving conditions in the rural schools, there, is held each summer during the school vacation a School of Science, classes of which are held at the Agricultural College building, the instructors heing composed of men from the faculties of these institutions, assisted by some of the leading men engaged in scientific teaching in Canada. The importance of this affiliation can scarcely be overestimated, for, unless the College is in close touch with the rural schools, and unless the scholars at these schools are directed towards the College, neither can prove as effective in bettering rural conditions as it is desirable for them to be.

The equipment of the College s much the same, although not as extensive, as is to be seen at Guelph and other centres of agricultural education. However, under the conditions described above, it is only natural that the outstanding feature of the institution should be its live stock equipment. In the stables on the College Farm, and, in some cases, in stables in other parts of the Province, but owned by the College, are to be found one of the finest collections of I've stock which has been gathered together in any part of the Dominion. There are herds of Holsteins, Ayrshires, Jerseys, Shorthorns, and Herefords, composed of outstanding individuals, and headed by some of the best sires to be found in Canada. The Holstein herd of cows averaged last year 13,500 pounds of milk.

In the horse stables are to be found animals of famous parentage and splendid specimens of their breed. There are seven pure bred Clydesdale mares, three having been extensive prize-w inners in Scotland. The College at present owns three Clydesdale stallions.

Equal attention has been paid to the selection of swine and poultry, so that, taken altogether, the live stock equipment at the College is such as to afford splendid ideas for the students in attendance, and also to effect improvement in the general character of the stock of the Province.

“Each Province in Canada,” observed Professor Cumming to me, “has its own peculiar agricultural conditions and problems, and before one can pronounce judgment upon the degree of progress which each has made, he must understand the special conditions under which the people have been working.” Nova Scotia, as has been said, is a province of varied resources, in the forests, the seas, and the mines. While these various natural resources have added largely to the wealth of the Province, yet their presence cannot he termed an unmitigated blessing. There is a tendency for the people to direct their energies in too many avenues of employment, and a corresponding lack of continuity, especially in methods of agriculture. There are exceptions, for example in the fruit-growing counties and in local areas in various parts, where the people have adhered strictly to agriculture. But there are thousands enrolled in the census as farmers who have little more right to be included in that class than has the porter in an office to be called a lawyer or a doctor. As, however, the forests are increasing, and the pursuit of the sea and mines are becoming more specialised, those who are living on the lands are taking a greater interest in the subject of agriculture, and are seeking such information which wili help them to improve their conditions.

One great enemy of agriculture in New Scotland is the natural tendency of the farmer’s sons to migrate to the south or the west. The proximity and easy accessibility of Boston and other large American cities was long irresistible,, just as London and England allured the youth of Old Scotland. But the trend of western immigration must sometime cease, and life in American cities is proving less lucrative than of yore, the result being a marked tendency on the part of the young men of the Province to devote themselves to farming.

The type of farming long favoured in Nova Scotia was that which minimised the amount of labour required, except at those seasons of the year when seeds must be sown and harvests reaped. As a consequence, one saw herds of live stock, too small in numbers, often of inferior quality, and still more indifferently kept. The selling of hay and oats, and roots of all kinds, was found an easier solution of the difficulties of farming than raising live stock, and the selling of butter, and cream, and milk, beef, eggs, and other animal products. Many ar impoverished field and many a run-out farm still greets the traveller, robbed of Fs virgin wealth of humus, and of the elements of plant food. The cure for this is live stock and live stock alone, and this is the gospel which Professor Cumming is preaching.

Of course, in the fruit areas of Hants, King’s, and Annapolis counties, this want is not so keenly felt. Green crops, like clover, peas, and vetches, are grown and ploughed under to supply humus with which to improve the physical condition, and nitrogen with which to increase the plant food of the soil, on which the apples, and plums, and other fruits are grown. But even here more live stock is a necessity.

For the development of a high type of agriculture Nova Scotia offers most favourable conditions. About the only drawback, as compared with the inland parts of Canada, is a somewhat protracted spring, a drawback which frequent showers of rain and moist conditions natural to any maritime province, largely mitigate. Live stock, when properly cared for, flourishes to an unusual degree, and the markets for all kinds of agriculture produce are not only unusually good but easily accessible—so easy of access, in fact, as to have oft-times prevented successful co-operation, especially in butter and cheese making. For when a farmer can find within a few miles of his door a population of miners who will buy his products and pay cash on delivery, he is often discouraged if he has to wait for a little longer to receive his returns from a creamery. The result of this has been to promote private dairying and private marketing of all sorts of produce at the expense of the more desirable, and, in the end, more profitable system of co-operative manufacture and marketing.

Dairying might well prosper here. Pastures, when properly cared for, are good and well watered, cows do well under the moist, humid conditions which prevail, and should the local market for dairy products ever become over-supplied, no province has easier access to the markets of the outside world. Beef cattle, too, have their place, especially in proximity to the large tracts of inexhaustibly fertile dike marsh lands, fining the headwaters of the Bay of Fundy and its river tributaries. There are also isolated river valleys where cheap pastures afford the means of raising beef at a minimum cost. Sheep find the land most congenial, and when well bred and cared for, the sheep of Nova Scotia will rival those of any other part of Canada. But for more than one reason sheep-ralling has not been sufficiently exploited, although according to the census of 1907 it has made more progress during the past half decade than the forty years previously.

Horses, and swine, and poultry, as might also be expected, have their place 1n Nova Scotian agriculture, and, under efficient treatment, will give as good an account of themselves as in Ontario or any of the older provinces of Canada.

In the matter of crops New Scotland is peculiarly adapted to the production of hay and roots. The large marsh and Interval areas produce heavy crops of hay, and nowhere in America can one see finer fields of turnips than on some of these maritime farms. In a recent bulletin issued by the Department of Agriculture on “Root-Growirg in Nova Scotia,” there are recorded replies from twenty-five representative farmers living in various parts of the Province, from whose records it appears that the minimum yield of roots per acre for the last year was 600 bushels, with a maximum of 1200 bushels, and an average of 864 bushels. Despite, however, the splendid facilities for growing roots, many farmers, because of the reasons already hinted at, devote little or none of their acreage to this most profitable crop. Although there are exceptions, yet, for the most part, the cereal crops do not flourish to quite the same degree as further inland, and corn, whether grown for ears or ensilage, is generally an uncertain crop. The Federal Department has already in operation an extensive experimental farm, operated for the benefit of the Maritime Provinces, at Nappan, N.S. Truro, labouring under the disadvantage of being outside of the so-called fruit-growing areas, will have its work w ell supplemented by the establishment of this station.

In addition to that which is carried on within the College ground, a strong effort is being made to promote College extension work. Recently one hundred of the leading farmers of the Province, together with representative men from the adjoining Provinces, co-operated with the College authorities in testing varieties of grain, grown singly and in mixture, and also in testing microbacteria for various leguminous crops. This latter line of investigation has already been carried on for three years, and has been productive of some striking results.

An extensive series of institute meetings, addressed by members of the College staff, successful farmers in Nova Scotia, and some of the Ontario men, are regularly carried on. There is a Farmers’ Association, which holds a three-days’ annual meeting in different parts of the Province, and a Fruit-Growers’ Association, which holds regular meetings in the fruit sections of the Province. In addition, each county, with a few exceptions, has a regularly organised County Farmers Association, whose object it is to promote the educational campaign, and to deliberate upon matters of common interests.

But perhaps the most aggressive and successful body of organised farmers is constituted in the agricultural societies, of which there are 160, situated all over the Province. Under the auspices of the various agricultural societies and associations of the Province, the various members of the Agricultural College staff lecture and give demonstrations on improved agriculture. Co-operative experiments in crops, methods of cultivation, fertilisation, and soil inoculation are being directed from the College. A series of model orchards, thirty-three in number, have been established in the various counties of the Province, from Cape Breton in the east to Yarmouth in the west, and are under the direct supervision of the horticulturist at the College. Insect and fungus pests, such as the brown-tailed moth, are being studied and kept in control through the efforts of the biologist and other members of the College faculty. The principal object for which these agricultural societies exist is the improvement of live stock. Each society keeps from one to sometimes six or more pure-bred bulls. These societies are bonuses by the Government to the extent, during the present year, of 89 cents for each dollar subscribed by the members of these societies. Now new lines of work are opening up, of which perhaps the most interesting is the campaign which is being organised to encourage the more extensive draining of farm lands.

Authorities who have studied the matter carefully are convinced that money judiciously invested in the under drainage of farm lands will return from 15 to 50 per cent, or more per annum on the investment. Many of our own best farmers already know this from experience; but there are a great many farms in the Province of Nova Scotia sadly in need of drainage, which are to-day yielding unprofitable crops because they have not been drained. With a view to encouraging the under-drainage of these lands, the College, I was told, are about to supply at a nominal cost men who will survey and take levels of fields which it is purposed to drain, and give advice in regard to the most efficient means of doing this. To further facilitate the matter, the College has bought, at the cost of several thousand dollars, the most improved drainage machine that is to-day on the market. The College authorities are constantly on the alert to push forward progressive measures of all kinds.

During the visit a year or so since of Earl Grey to the Agricultural College, the Hon. Sydney Fisher, the Dominion Minister of Agriculture, said that the exhibition of live stock which he saw there was the best he had ever seen at any of the public institutions in the whole Dominion. Mr. Fisher being himself a farmer, and owning one of the best live stock farms in the Province of Quebec, no one in Canada is more competent to pronounce judgment upon such matters. Mr. Fisher further added, “You have taken me entirely by surprise, for although Minister of Agriculture for Canada, and more or less in touch with its agricultural institutions, yet I had not realised that you of the. Fast have been advancing as rapidly as I now observe.”

I find I have said nothing of the flourishing town of Truro itself—of its shaded streets and pleasant people. After all, the Government Farm and Agricultural College is its chief title to distinction.

A few miles from Truro, and at the eastern end of the Cobequid Mountains, are the chief iron deposits of this por of New Scotland. Londonderry reminds us once more of the native town of that ubiquitous pioneer, Colonel M'Nutt, and from this place a branch railway runs to the Acadia mines and iron works. Stages also run to this busy industrial centre and to great village Economy and Five Islands. The Londonderry iron has been pronounced to be almost equal to the Swedish for steel manufacture; the mines yield both limonite and spathic ores.


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