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. From “The Great Map” of William MacKay, 1834, see pin showing the property of Stephen Woodworth
Source: Nova Scotia Archives Map Collection: The Great Map M 77, https://archives.novascotia.ca/maps/greatmap/archives/?ID=149&Page=201586979, used with permission

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 6.25 (livestock units per km2), compared to 7.18 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.

Conclusions

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 10 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 https://bprtravels.wordpress.com/woodworth-the-story-of-a-nova-scotia-farming-family/.

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.