Energy on the Wilford VanWart Farm and Hampstead, Queens County, New Brunswick

Figure 1a. Wilford VanWart’s barn in Hampstead, New Brunswick, Canada with the St. John River in the distance. This photograph, and those that follow, are used with permission of Margot Stafford, a descendant of Wilford VanWart.
Figure 1b. Wilford VanWart.

The VanWart Farm in New Brunswick’s Queens County is an example of a mixed farm with an emphasis on dairy, fodder, and other riverine resources found in the Acadian Forest agroecosystem. The VanWart family farm was 260 acres in size, or 105.2 hectares, and was situated on the St. John River which provided the possibility of riverine transportation for products both arriving at and leaving the farm. The VanWart farm was greater than twice the size of the average farm in the Hampstead census subdivision (CSD), the average size being 46.1 ha. Wilford VanWart (b. 1849/d. 1920) was 22 years old in 1871.[1] His father, Jacob VanWart, had died in 1861.[2] Therefore, in 1871, the VanWart family farm was run by Wilford’s mother Catherine, his uncle John VanWart (his father’s younger brother) plus Wilfred and his siblings–his older brother Abner who was 31 in 1871, and his sisters Matilda, age 26, Bethiah, age 23, and Eliza, age 14.[3] The family also had a hired farm labourer in 1871, John G. Holy, who was the same age as Abner, 31. Abner died in 1877 at the age of 37, leaving Wilford to inherit the farm.[4] By 1881, Wilford’s uncle John and his mother Catherine were still living with the family, but his three sisters were not. Wilford married Elvira Jane Fox of Lower Gagetown.[5] When the census was taken in 1881, the couple had two children, Arthur, aged one, and Mabel, just five months old.[6] Ten years later, in 1891, Wilford was the head of the household, and he and Jane had five children, one son, Jacob, and four daughters, Mabel, Nellie, Ida, and Jesse.[7]

Figure 1b. Google Map of Hampstead, Queens County, New Brunswick.

Figure 1c. Clip of Crown Grant Reference Map showing location of Wilford VanWart’s farm, with thanks to Margot Stafford’s father Brian Till for noting the location. Brian points out that Wilford VanWart also had the first section on Long Island that he hayed in summer, storing the hay in a barn on the island until winter when the St. John River froze. When the river ice was thick enough to support horses and sleighs, VanWart was able to retrieve his hay from the island and transport it to the main farm. Clip of Crown Grant Reference Map provided by Service New Brunswick. Note: this map contains information licensed under the Open Government License, New Brunswick. Crown Grant Reference Map. 1inch: 10 chains: 660 feet. Fredericton, N. B.: GeoNB, 1964,

Farm Energy Funds*

Wilford VanWart’s family farm was over 57 percent cleared in 1871, meaning it was significantly more advanced than the average farm in Hampstead (38 percent cleared) and the rest of New Brunswick (31 percent cleared). The family also accessed the first section on Long Island in the St. John River which was used primarily for hay (Figure 1c). Lush marshland islands produced more hay per ha than did upland hay.[8] The farm had more land in pasture and hay than did the average farm in the Hampstead CSD. VanWart had 16.2 ha in pasture and 32.4 ha in hay, but for the average farm in Hampstead it was 10.7 ha and 8.9 ha respectively. This points to the VanWart farm being fodder intensive but, in spite of VanWart’s focus on feed for his animals, his farm had a feed and litter deficit, which was also the case for the greater Hampstead region. In order to meet the demand for feed and litter, VanWart and, indeed, many of his neighbours, must have imported hay from hay producing regions along the Bay of Fundy such as the Tantramar Marshes. At the time, these marshlands were farmed to meet the demands of a hay economy. Hay from the area was transported by ship and train to lumber camps, mines, farms, cities in Maritime Canada, and cities on the eastern seaboard of the United States.[9] Because the VanWart farm was situated on the St. John River, it may be that hay was delivered directly to the farm by ship. In his diary, kept almost 40 years later, 1907-1909, Wilford mentioned a wharf in Hampstead where riverboats stopped daily. He also mentioned purchasing feed by the bag from a Hampstead merchant and sending pork and other products to the village to sell.[10] 

Figure 2a. Area Visualization of Wilford VanWart’s farm in 1871, with more than half under cultivation or pasture. Additionally, the VanWart farm had more land in hay than in pasture.
Figure 2b. Area Visualization of all the farms in Hampstead CSD, Queens, New Brunswick. Approximately one-third of the farmland is under cultivation or in pasture, and there is more pasture than hay, which is a contrast to the VanWart farm.

The livestock intensity for VanWart’s farm was 26.2 livestock units per km2, and the grazing intensity was 1.34 ruminant units per ha of pasture. This was higher than the greater Hampstead region which was 10.0 livestock units per km2 and .73 ruminants units per ha of pasture. Therefore, VanWart’s livestock and grazing intensity was approximately twice that of the greater Hampstead region. Whereas, the VanWart farm had no residues from its fodder crops and pasture, the greater Hampstead region as a whole had 15,408,866 MJ of residues. The VanWart farm had 20 cords of firewood on hand, in 1871. In contrast, the average amount of firewood on a farm in Hampstead was 14 cords, in 1871.

Farm Energy Flows*

In 1871, the VanWart farm produced 1000 bu potatoes, 196 bu oats, 170 bu buckwheat, 30 bu apples, five bu corn, four bu of hops, and two bu each of peas, beans, and turnips. The farm had one hive of bees. The greater Hampstead region produced the same crops, plus some farmers grew rye, Mangel-wurtzel, carrots, and drew maple sugar from the bush. Farmers in the Hampstead CSD reported 138 hives of bees.

In 1871, VanWart reported having two horses over three years old, two colts or fillies, two oxen, 12 other horned cattle, 12 swine, 14 milk cows,19 sheep, and one beehive. He slaughtered two cattle, 12 swine, and 16 sheep. In contrast, the average farm had 1.4 horses over the age of three, .3 colts or fillies, .8 oxen, 5.3 milk cows, 3.3 other horned cattle, 9 sheep, 3.8 swine, and .65 of a beehive, and the average farm slaughtered 1.2 cattle, 3.7 sheep, and 3.8 swine. VanWart had 600 pounds of butter, 1,000 pounds of cheese, 14 pounds of honey, 102 pounds of wool, and 90 yards of cloth, whereas the average farm had 349 pounds of butter, 207 pounds of cheese, 6.9 pounds of honey, and 39.6 pounds of wool. Notable here is the VanWart farm’s dairy production: in energetic terms, the average farm in the Hampstead CSD produced about one-third of what the VanWart farm produced. Hampstead farmers produced 791,210 MJ from their butter and cheese, for an average of 4,100 MJ per farm; in contrast, the VanWart farm produced 12,320 MJ from butter and cheese. The labour of the women on the VanWart farm, Wilford’s mother Catherine, and his three sisters, Matilda, Bethiah, and Eliza, must have contributed greatly to the VanWart family’s prosperity. No doubt, by applying their labour to various farm tasks, they were able to increase the farm’s output. It is probable that there would have been a wharf in Hampstead where the VanWart farm productions would have been taken, loaded on ships, and sold in various markets, perhaps Fredericton, St. John, or Halifax.[11]


Wilford VanWart’s farm was very prosperous compared to the average farm in the Hampstead CSD. Although he used more of his available land as hay and pasture than did the average farm in Hampstead CSD, he still had a feed and litter deficit. He must have met his livestock’s feed and litter requirements by importing hay, perhaps from the hay-rich Tantramar Marshes. Additionally, the VanWart farm had abundant available labour, divided evenly by gender: four men and four women. Their combined labour made the farm a success.

Margot Stafford keeps a Twitter account in the name of Wilford VanWart @VanWartWilford where she regularly posts his diary entries from over a century ago.

Figure 6a. The next generation: Nase VanWart (Wilford’s son) hauling hay from Long Island over the ice.
Figure 6b. Julia (Nase VanWart’s wife and Wilford’s daughter-in-law) feeding chickens on the VanWart Farm.

* For an explanation of terms in this profile, see the farm energy profiles project home page.

[1] “Wilford Vanwart,,” 1871 Census of Canada, RG31, C-10380, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Ottawa.

[2] “Jacob VanWart,” Ancestry Family Trees,

[3] “VanWart,” 1871, LAC.

[4] “Abner VanWart,” grave marker, Central Hampstead Baptist Cemetery, Hampstead, Queens, New Brunswick, Canada,

[5] “Ida Lottie VanWart,” New Brunswick, Canada, Births and Late Registrations, 1810-1906, s.v.”Ida Lottie Vanwart,”

[6] Wilford VanWart,” 1881 Census of Canada, RG31, C-13181, LAC.

[7] Wilford VanWart,” 1891 Census of Canada, RG31, T-6302, LAC.The couple’s first born son Arthur is not recorded in the 1891 Canada Census. He must have passed sometime after the 1881 census was taken.

[8] Jason Hall, “River of  Three Peoples: An Environmental and Cultural History of the Wәlastәw / Riviere St. Jean / St. John River, c. 1550 – 1850” (PhD diss., University of New Brunswick, 2015), 300-301.

[9] Robert Summerby-Murray, “‘Beneath the Marshes There’: Historical Maps, Dykes, and the Aboiteaux of Tantramar” in Underground New Brunswick: Stories of Archaeology, eds. Peter Erickson and Jonathan Fowler, (Halifax: Nimbus Publishing, 2013), 78.

[10] Margot Stafford, email message to the author, September 3, 2021. Stafford, a descendant of Wilford VanWart, keeps a Twitter account in which she regularly tweets Wilford’s diary entries (@VanwartWilford).

[11] Margot Stafford, email message to the author, September 3, 2021. Although there is no certainty if the VanWart farm had its own dock, or if there was a Hampstead wharf in 1871, by 1907-1909 when Wilford VanWart regularly kept a diary, there was definitely a wharf in Hampstead. The riverboats stopped there daily, and Wilford VanWart often mentioned in his diary that he sent farm productions by riverboat to town to sell.

Energy on the Andrew Hay Johnson Farm and Falmouth, Hants County, Nova Scotia

Figure 1a. Unloading barrels of apples, Falmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, ca. 1929. Used with permission. Canada Science and Technology Museum, Image No.: CN000789.

The Johnson Farm in Nova Scotia’s Hants County is an example of an organic intensive energy strategy in a Maritime horticultural agroecosystem. Andrew Hay Johnson (b. 1836/ d. 1914) reported owning and working a small 13-acre farm, in 1871; however, schedule 3 of the census notes that he also had 161.9 ha elsewhere in the Dominion of Canada, bringing his total amount of land to 167.9 ha.[1] Born in nearby Wolfville, he was the youngest child of William Johnson and Hannah Pettingell.[2] Johnson was situated on his Falmouth farm with three older women, Sophia Johnson, probably an aunt or cousin, Hannah Lantz, a servant, and his elderly mother. An active member of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers’ Association, Johnson was an advocate for the advancement of women in horticulture.[3] The Association’s prize lists show that he was a frequent winner for apples at local and provincial fairs.[4] In 1876, he married Oliva Pettingell Church of Falmouth. She was also active in the Association, especially in the advancement of women in horticulture. The couple had one child, a daughter Edith, born in 1877.[5]

Figure 1b. Google Map of Falmouth, Hants, Nova Scotia.

Figure 1c. Frederick B. Roe. Atlas of the Maritime Provinces of the Dominion of Canada, with Historical and Geological Descriptions. St. John, N. B., and Halifax, N. S.: Roe Brothers, 1879,

Farm Energy Funds*

In 1871, all 13 acres, or 5.3 hectares, of Johnson’s farm were cleared: 1.2 ha were in pasture, 1.8 ha were in cropland, 2 ha were designated garden or orchard, and .2 ha were in buildings and lanes. Johnson’s 2 ha of garden or orchard did double duty, producing fruit and hay. His reported five tons of hay were cut in the garden. His farm was diminutive when compared to the Falmouth CSD’s 6,879 ha. The Falmouth CSD was less than half occupied (3,295 ha), leaving the remaining land (3,584 ha) in woodland. Although Johnson reported having 12 cords of firewood and 28 cubic feet of sawn timber on hand, he did not have a woodlot on his 5.3 ha, so the wood must have come from his other land.

Figure 2a. Area Visualization for the Andrew Hay Johnson farm, 1871. The coloured rectangle represents Andrew Hay Johnson’s 5.3 ha, and the large grey polygon that engulfs that rectangle represents the 161.9 ha that was outside the Falmouth Census Subdivision. His 5.3 ha parcel was one hundred percent improved, and most of that land (2 ha) was in gardens or orchards. He had a small pasture (1.2 ha) and a small area for crops (1.8 ha).  We suggest that the much larger 161.9 ha was partially improved and that this is where about half of Johnson’s 230 bushels of apples were grown and where his 12 cords of wood and 28 cubic feet of sawn timber originated.
Figure 2b. Area Visualization for the Falmouth CSD, 1871. Note the 1,267.9 ha pastureland in the Falmouth CSD, some of which may have been available to Johnson’s livestock in order to relieve the pressure on his own 1.2 ha of pastureland. Although Johnson did not have salt marsh as part of his holding, the Falmouth CSD reported 467.41 ha of salt marsh, which was 14.19 percent of the CSD’s reported farmland.

That same year, 1871, Johnson reported having one horse and one colt or filly, two working oxen, two milk cows, one steer or heifer, four sheep, and no beehives. These figures diverge significantly from the average farm in the Falmouth CSD which had 1.1 horses over the age of three, .3 colts of fillies, .6 oxen, 1.9 milk cows, 2.5 other horned cattle, 5.3 sheep, 1.4 swine. and .83 of a beehive. Johnson slaughtered two cattle and four sheep. The average farm in the CSD, however, slaughtered 1.5 cattle, three sheep, and 1.4 swine. Johnson had 300 pounds of butter and 16 pounds of wool, but the average farm had 143.5 pounds of butter, 2.7 pounds of cheese, 18.6 pounds of wool, plus 6.7 pounds of honey, 13.2 yards of homemade flannel, and .9 of a yard of homemade linen. Johnson had an extremely high livestock density of 130.3 livestock units per km2 (LU/km2) and a grazing intensity of 4.2 ruminant units per hectare (LUr/ha) of pasture, if the animals were only pastured on his 5.3 ha. If his larger 167.1 ha is taken into consideration, then his LU/km2 drops to 4.1, but his LUr/ha remains at 4.2, because we do not know if there is more available pasture on the 161.9 ha. The Falmouth CSD’s livestock intensity and grazing intensity is 13.5 and .54 respectively.

Johnson had a feed deficit of 227,464 MJ and a litter deficit of 74,967 MJ. Thus, he would have relied heavily on imported biomass and on his residues, likely from his corn. Johnson may have also rented pasture from neighbouring farms to ease the pressure on his own 1.2 ha of pasture.

Farm Energy Flows*

A horticultural farm focused on dairy production as well as fruit and vegetables, the Johnson farm produced three bushels of peas, 15 bushels of barley, and 20 bushels of corn, in 1871. There were also root crops: 150 bushels of mangel wurzel,100 bushels of carrots, 200 bushels of turnips, and 300 bushels of potatoes. The orchard produced 230 bushels of apples and 12 bushels of “other” fruit, probably plums and pears. Johnson’s large amount of apples indicates that he was emerging as a significant orchardist in the Falmouth region by 1871. The Falmouth CSD reported 5,448 bu of apples, grown on 83 ha of gardens or orchards, or 65 bu of apples per ha. Johnson’s two ha of gardens or orchards were either producing 115 bu of apples per ha, or he was also growing apples on his additional 161.9 ha, and he reported them along with his other farm products on the 1871 census. Most probably, about half of Johnson’s apples came from his 2 ha of gardens or orchards, with the remainder coming from his other land. Either way, Johnson was producing seven times the amount of apples as the average farm in Falmouth (33 bu). The Johnson farm reinvested 62 percent of its grain and root crop biomass as feed and litter, which was about three-quarters of the 82.1 percent reinvested by farms in the Falmouth CSD.

Because Johnson had few ruminant livestock and focused on growing foods for human consumption, his farm reused less biomass than other farms in the Falmouth region that mostly grew crops to feed livestock. Johnson’s farm produced 24,521 MJ or 2.45 GJ from all his crops, including residuals, but excluding hay and apples. Additionally, his farm produced 15,853 MJ from animal products, including beef from two slaughtered cattle, mutton from four slaughtered sheep, and 300 pounds of butter. Johnson’s garden produced at least 1,730 MJ from fruit crops, and his hay produced an additional 81,647 MJ, for a total of 83,377 MJ. Given that Johnson’s garden or orchard was only 2 hectares, at 83 GJ/ha it was a highly productive environment.

The Livestock and Barnyard Produce for both the Johnson farm and the Falmouth CSD were similar with milk, butter, and slaughtered cattle being the biggest sources of energy. However, the Johnson farm derived more energy from butter than cattle, which was reversed for the Falmouth CSD.


Johnson was a significant orchardist. With 230 bushels of apples, he was seven times more productive than the average apple grower in Falmouth (33 bushels). However, the apples on this large and relatively specialized fruit operation represented a small share of the total energy balance, smaller than some of his feed crops and much less than the energy in fodder crops. In fact, even if we assume that Johnson planted his potato, carrot, and turnip crops in his garden for mainly human consumption, those 8 acres (3.2 ha) of small but carefully cultivated orchards and pastures yielded 12,547 MJ of produce for humans and 300,000 MJ of fodder for his small herd. Moreover, his animals consumed 7,457 MJ of corn and peas. They also used 9,320 MJ worth of barley residues for litter, and they consumed 205,422 MJ of residues from these and other crops as a supplement to their other feeds.

By the 1880s, Nova Scotia fruit growers had stepped into the global market and were shipping their productions to London, UK. In 1883, Johnson travelled to Britain to look into reports of damaged fruit arriving in London from Nova Scotia. He noted that the origin of the problem was two-fold: improper packaging of the fruit and rough handling of the apple barrels on Halifax and London docks.[6] Given that Johnson’s farm included livestock and cropland in addition to his garden and fruit trees, his farm economy may have been based on combined sales of apples and other fruits on the global market and production for his home and for local markets.

Figure 6. View from Pearson’s Farm – now Cedar Street – Hantsport, N. S., ca. 1895. This farm was in the same area as Johnson’s. Photographer A.E. Cornwall. Used with permission. Nova Scotia Archives 1984-497 number 133 /  negative: N-2707.

* For an explanation of terms in this profile, see the farm energy profiles project home page.

[1] “A.H. Johnson,” 1871 Census of Canada, RG31, C-10540, 566433, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Ottawa.

[2] Shirley B. Elliott, “Johnson, Andrew Hay,” DCB Online XIV, accessed June 17, 2021, Elliot notes that Johnson’s larger acreage was in the Town of Falmouth.

[3] Julian Gwyn, Comfort Me with Apples: The Nova Scotia Fruit Growers’ Association, 1863-2013 (Berwick, NS: Lupin Press, 2014), 206. Gwyn also points out that prospects for apple production improved only in the late 1850s with the opening of a rail line from Halifax to Windsor. Prior to this apples had been of “very little consequence” and were not reported in the 1851 and 1861 censuses (Gwyn, 35-36). Therefore, in 1871, apple production in Nova Scotia was still a developing industry. Johnson’s farm, located across the Avon River from Windsor, was well situated to take advantage of both water transport and the rail line to Halifax, thereby securing two ways to get the farm’s apples and other products to market.

[4] Elliot, “Johnson,” DCB Online.

[5]  Edmund James Cleveland, The Genealogy of the Cleveland and Cleaveland Families. (Hartford, Conn.: Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co., 1899), 1:1173, accessed June 17, 2021,

[6] Elliot, “Johnson,” DCB Online.

The 150 Year Energy Audit: Introducing a Series of Canadian Farm Energy Profiles, c. 1871


by Joshua MacFadyen, Canada Research Chair in Geospatial Humanities

It’s that time of year when Canadians do energy audits. Some homeowners get professional audits of household energy consumption and start thinking about ways to conserve heat and light in the colder months ahead. Food is another essential energy source, and whether you are a parent planning kids’ lunches or a gardener considering how many meals your summer toil will supplement, you are conducting an energy audit. Farmers audit their business in different ways; as the fall harvest matures they think about the amounts of food and feed that will be produced, and at what costs. What if you could do an energy audit of your ancestors? In the late nineteenth-century an energy audit would have included aspects of each version, above, as virtually every family was either directly involved in agriculture or relying closely on local farms for food, feed, or fuel.

The GeoREACH Lab at UPEI is launching a fortnightly Farm Profile feature on our website that will introduce the first national study of Canadian farm families from an energy perspective. Every second week we will present an “energy profile” of farms from PEI to Ontario and all points in between. Our first profile discusses energy on the Woodworth Farms and Shubenacadie township in Hants County, Nova Scotia. Each farm that follows will use the same methodology to compare the different land use, energy production, and livestock management strategies of rural Canadians around 150 years ago.

After sharing more than a dozen of these profiles, on 11 May 2022 we will lead a one-day workshop at the Atlantic Canada Studies Conference at UNB on “Digital Humanities, Diaries, and Environment in the Atlantic Region.” The workshop will introduce the tool we developed for creating energy profiles, and it will bring together scholars from across the region to consider similar uses from diaries and other routinely generated sources. The conference CFP and additional information about the workshop is available here.

Fig. 1: Map of planned farm profiles. Suggestions are welcome, particularly in Quebec. Please contact Dr. MacFadyen or comment on the project home page. Note, the focus of the research at this point is the four provinces for which agricultural data were recorded in 1871, plus PEI based on supplementary research. We examine the energy history of agriculture in Western Canada in other studies, and we hope to develop farm-level case studies there as well, in due course.

The Agroecosystem Metabolic Profile Application

The GeoREACH Lab is also looking forward to releasing a new tool for conducting energy and environmental history. The Agroecosystem Metabolic Profile Application (AMPA) creates standardized profiles from dozens of historical variables found in routinely generated sources such as the Canadian Census of Agriculture. The AMPA is designed for Canadian case studies, but it will also work in other parts of North America and similar agroecosystems. It borrows from a number of social sciences and sustainability sciences, and in general terms it follows the methodology outlined by the Sustainable Farm Systems project (see case studies in a special issue of Regional Environmental Change edited by Gingrich et al, 2018).

The historical data we use recorded the basic land use and annual products of farms including the products from cropland, woodland, pasture and grazing land, as well as the numbers and products of livestock. The AMPA uses a variety of historical assumptions, such as the energy content of each crop’s produce and residues in the nineteenth century or the typical feed consumption and composition of each animal, to convert the variables into the total amount of energy produced by each crop and consumed by each animal. The energy is measured in joules (eg. MJ) per kg of dry matter, so that the energy from any plant, feed, or animal product may be compared with other products in the same agroecosystem. Similarly, the energy in each of these “flows” may be compared with the flows in another agroecosystem, either elsewhere in Canada or in the same place at different points in the past. 

Fig.2: Area visualization of land use in agricultural CSDs represented in the 1871 Census of Canada (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia).

This chart shows the breakdown of agricultural land in Canada in 1871 in the first three columns. The outer grey band is a representation of the land that fell roughly within the agricultural ecumene (the jurisdictions that were mostly occupied by settler Canadians) but that were not being held by farmers. This shows the large amounts of public land, lakes, and other wildland, as well as roads, towns, and other developed areas. When the figures are updated in AMPA these amounts adjust to show the relative land use of any new jurisdiction with the same historical variables as those found in the 1871 Census.

— Fig. 3. Area visualization of land use in in agricultural CSDs within each of the four provinces represented in the 1871 Census of Canada (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia)

The most commonly used source for these data, and the most comprehensive in many ways, is the Census of Agriculture. Thanks to its many surviving manuscript schedules, 1871 census provides some of the richest data at virtually every scale, from the individual farmer orchardist (or gardener) all the way up to the new Dominion of Canada. The AMPA combines over fifty variables from the 1871 Census. However, censuses have limitations, as well. For instance, they provide an excellent snapshot in time, but since most censuses are decennial they do not allow us to compare an agroecosystem’s changing energy flows for more than one year in a row. For this we would need sources such as annual censuses, which are quite rare, or, in the case of a single farm, a series of their business accounts or diaries. Moreover, the data collected by censuses reflected the priorities of their time and they sometimes overlooked key actors. In the late nineteenth century, for instance, the census did not record poultry or eggs, presumably because they were considered women’s work. The census also excluded smaller producers, although as we will see, the definition of a census farm was very much in flux in 1871.* Therefore, it is important to consider using data from other sources, from aggregate statistics to individual diaries, and the AMPA is designed to incorporate those in various ways. The Atlantic Canada Studies workshop in 2022 will invite contributions from many scholars expert in the use of diaries and life writing, and in one session we will introduce AMPA and focus on ways that diaries may enhance energy analysis and environmental history.

By considering a farm or larger agroecosystem from this energetic perspective, it is possible to see patterns and to think about how energy and land use strategies changed over time. The results are more easily mapped in digital humanities software such as historical Geographic Information Systems (h-GIS). The AMPA also includes a number of data visualization tools that show land use as well as the relative energy value of each type of farm produce. 

Energy profiles can be quite abstract, but they ultimately all stem from the decisions and actions of farm families and the non-human animals who cohabited their agroecosystems. To better understand the context in which these farms operated and the social history behind them, the GeoREACH Lab is compiling a series of profiles at the farm level. These profiles will provide a brief background into the families that lived on these farms, the farm’s energy funds (components of the agroecosystem that persisted over multiple years and decades), its energy flows (components of the agroecosystem that generally changed annually), and an analysis of the farm’s energy strategy. We then compare each farm with a profile of the larger census subdivision (eg. township) in which they appeared. The result allows us to compare individual family strategies within their geographic context and to compare them to farms in different areas.

This series focuses on land-use and the energy products from cleared farmland (cropland, pasture, and grazing land). It also explores the critical role that animals played as bioconverters including the ways that farmers reinvested energy from crop and pasture land into animal husbandry. Other publications will focus on energy from firewood and products of the forest (firewood, fencing, maple syrup, lumber, etc), as well as the energy inputs from animal feed, seed, human labour, and other external energy sources.

Please bookmark the project home page, and follow along as each profile is released. We hope you enjoy the series, and we welcome feedback and suggestions for new farms and new sources to consider in the comments, below. If you have questions about the ACSC workshop please reach out to me at jdmacfadyen at

*The 1871 census eventually determined that a farm was any area of land with at least 5 acres and some agricultural produce. However most enumerators visited every person who reported produce from any amount of land. This is of significant interest to historians interested in self provisioning as the data for small producers are still available in the manuscript sources even though they were omitted from the printed summaries.

Energy on the Woodworth Farms and Shubenacadie, Hants County, Nova Scotia

Figure 1a. The Woodworth homestead, built 1864 (behind trees), Woodworth Road, NS, July 2002. Personal photo.

The Woodworth farms in Hants County are an example of a pioneering energy strategy in a Maritime Acadian Forest agroecosystem. In 1871, the three Woodworth farms occupied 400 acres between Milford Station and Enfield along the banks of the Shubenacadie River in Shubenacadie, Hants County, in central Nova Scotia; today these lands are accessed by Woodworth Road on Highway 2.  Paul Woodworth, a dairy farmer, had inherited the property from his father, Stephen, the son of New England Planter Thomas Woodworth of Falmouth and Fort Ellis.  For a complete picture of the Woodworth farm in 1871, it is necessary to include the records for sons William (28) and Amos (26):  their households were independent and adjacent, but they pooled resources to run the farm and sell produce in Halifax.  In addition to William and Amos, Paul and his wife Mary Ann still had seven children at home; all of the family probably contributed to farm maintenance, butter churning and wool cloth production. 

Figure 1b. Google Map of Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, showing area of Woodworth farms.

Figure 1c. William Mackay. The Great Map. M77-4. 1 inch: 20 chains: 1,320 feet. Halifax. Nova Scotia Archives–Historical Maps of Nova Scotia, 1834,

Farm Energy Funds*

Collectively, Paul Woodworth and his eldest two sons farmed 400 acres or 162 hectares with Paul having divided his 81 ha farm with son William, and Amos farming 81 ha inherited from Paul’s brother; the average farm in Shubenacadie in 1871 was 64 ha.  Of this total, half had been cleared, and 75% of the cleared land was given over to pasture.  The Woodworths also reported 16 acres of “salt or dyked marsh,” which would have been their lands along the Shubenacadie River, a shallow river flowing into the Minas Basin at Maitland.  Their woodland amounted to 75 ha in the uplands: partially-cleared Acadian Forest that may have been used for the shipbuilding industry, given the shipbuilding activity further north on the Shubenacadie in the previous 60 years.  The Woodworths did not report any gardens or orchards or associated fruit and market vegetables.

Figure 2a. Area Visualization of Woodworth lands in 1871, with approximately half under cultivation or pasture.
Figure 2b. Area Visualization of all the farms in the Shubenacadie CSD, Hants, Nova Scotia.

Jointly they reported three horses, five milk cows, three other horned cattle, 16 sheep and three swine (one per household), resulting in a relatively low livestock density ratio of 6.2 (LU/km2), compared to 7.2 for the district. The Woodworth farm’s grazing intensity was even lower, due to its extensive pastures. The farm grazed a total of 24 ruminants (seven livestock units) over 63 hectares of pasture, or 0.11 livestock units per hectare (LUr/ha), compared to the township total of 820 units over 2483 hectares, or 0.33 LUr/ha.  Since their pasture was grazed less intensively than the township’s, much of it was likely only recently cleared and not fully available for cultivation.

Farm Energy Flows*

Like many farms in central Nova Scotia, the Woodworth energy strategy focused on producing grasses for livestock and even some for export. The Woodworths reported 38 acres of hay over two of the farms, producing 52 tons of hay or 1.4 tons per acre. Compared to Shubenacadie as a whole, the Woodworths kept a greater percentage of their land in hay, producing slightly more hay per acre. With lower livestock and grazing intensity, they reused less biomass than the district average, so it is likely that they sold some of their surplus hay to neighbours.   

Although the majority of their lands were dedicated to hay and pasture for their cattle and sheep, the main farm also grew oats, barley, potatoes, buckwheat and peas.  Seventy-eight percent of the grains and crop biomass was reused for feed and litter — likely for the family’s horses, pigs, and chickens (although the latter were not reported in the 1871 census).  Shubenacadie as a whole had practically identical feed and litter demands in its energy profile, with 81% biomass reused.

The Woodworths sold sheep, swine, and butter, producing approximately 34,000 MJ of energy, compared to the Shubenacadie average of 21,265 MJ per farm. More than half of this energy was milk, which was most likely used for human and animal feed as a byproduct of the butter-making process.  Their flows were consistent with the district as a whole, which focused primarily on dairy: although no cattle were reported as killed or sold for slaughter or export on the Woodworth farms in 1871, a total of 147 were reported in the larger district, which corresponds to one head of cattle per farm.

As farmers and marketers (butchers), the Woodworths did not apparently use their woodlot beyond personal use in the three households, as they only reported 15 cords of firewood and no lumber products, consistent with the averages for the district.


The Woodworth dairy farm was consistent in energy strategy with Shubenacadie as a whole in 1871, in that production was primarily for local use.  They concentrated on developing hay and pasture for milk cows and sheep, with greater hay production than the average Shubenacadie farm. Lower grazing intensity suggests that the pioneer farm’s relatively large pastures were recently cleared and fenced, and not yet ready for cultivation. Family histories confirm that they sold their products locally and in Halifax. The combined farm outputs were sufficient to comfortably sustain a total of 17 people and ten livestock units, and the farms would continue with Paul’s descendants for another century.  However, by the end of the 20th century, with increasing consolidation and investment, smaller families, and property fragmentation, small family-run dairy farms such as the Woodworths were no longer viable.

For more history of the Woodworth farm and the New England Planters, please see the extended blog post at

Figure 6a. James Woodworth, grandson of Paul, c. 1924. Family photo, used with permission.

* For an explanation of terms in this profile, see the farm energy profiles project home page.