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
Source: Image No.: CN000789, Canada Science and Technology Museum

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.[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. Hants County, Nova Scotia. Atlas of the Maritime Provinces of the Dominion of Canada, Roe Brothers, St. John, NB 1878. Island Imagined Historic Maps of Prince Edward Island,  https://www.islandimagined.ca/islandora/object/imagined%3A208724

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 2,713 ha of cleared land in the greater Falmouth census subdivision (CSD). Although Johnson reported having 12 cords of firewood and 28 cubic feet of sawn timber on hand, he did not have a woodlot, so the wood must have come from a neighbour’s woodlot or from Crown land.

Figure 2a. Area Visualization for the Andrew Hay Johnson farm, 1871.
Figure 2b. Area Visualization for the Falmouth CSD, 1871. Note the 1,267.88 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 1.21 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, and four sheep, resulting in a high livestock intensity on his farm of 130.3 livestock units per km2. Similarly, the grazing intensity of his animals was also high at 4.2 ruminant units per hectare (LUr/ha) of pasture. For the Falmouth CSD it was 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 230 bushels of apples represented 4.22 percent of the Falmouth CSD’s reported 5,448 bushels of apples. The Johnson farm reinvested 60.7 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 32,705 MJ or 3.27 GJ from all his crops, including residuals, but excluding hay and apples. Additionally, his farm produced 12,301 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 4,819 MJ from fruit and vegetable crops, and his hay produced an additional 81,647 MJ, for a total of 86,466 MJ. Given that Johnson’s garden or orchard was only 2 hectares, at 86 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.

Conclusion

Johnson was a significant orchardist. With 230 bushels of apples, he was over six times more productive than the average apple grower in Falmouth (36.3 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 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 13,100 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, NS, ca. 1895. This farm was in the same area as Johnson’s.
Photographer A.E. Cornwall. Nova Scotia Archives 1984-497 number 133 /  negative: N-2707. Used with permission.

* 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, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/johnson_andrew_hay_14E.html.

[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, http://www.books.google.com.

[6] Elliot, “Johnson,” DCB Online.