Energy on the Yuill Farms and Ramsay CSD, Lanark, Ontario

The Yuill farms in Lanark County are an example of a livestock intensive energy strategy in the Upper Ottawa Valley agroecosystem.  Joseph Yuill (b. 1838 / d. 1905) is listed in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography as a farmer, breeder, butter producer and educator.[1]  Joseph Yuill’s father, Alexander, emigrated with his parents and siblings from Glasgow to Ramsay Township in Lanark County in 1821, as part of a government-supported scheme to relocate Scots to aid industrial relief at home.[2]  Although the quality of land in Lanark County was often poor and settlers were continually petitioning for better land, neighbour William Dowrie found his land “excellent” and found his situation much improved over life in Scotland.[3] 

The Yuills seem to have prospered, however, and were well-represented on the maps of Ramsay township in 1863 and 1880 (Figures 1a and 1b).  Alexander Yuill settled on 200 acres on lot 9, concession 6 (7th Line Road), approximately 3 miles NW of Carlteon Place, and by the time of the 1871 census, had given 100 acres to son Joseph and his wife Margaret.[4] The farms were located along the southern edge of a wetland called Wolf Grove on both contemporary maps, and known today as the Wolf Grove Wetland Complex, owned in part by Nature Conservancy of Canada.[5] The farms were bounded and likely intersected in places by Ramsay Creek (now Wolf Grove Creek), which flowed down to the town of Almonte in the Lowlands subwatershed of Ontario’s Mississippi River.

Figure 1a – Clip of Ramsay Township (CSD), Historical County Map of Lanark County. D.P. Putnam, 1863. https://maps.library.utoronto.ca/hgis/countymaps/lanarkrenfrew/e010692499_b2.jpg. Note “A. Youll” at centre of map.
Figure 1b – Ramsay Township, Lanark County (Ontario Map Ref #40), Lanark Supplement in Illustrated atlas of the Dominion of Canada. Toronto : H. Belden & Co., 1880. McGill University, Rare Books Division, elf G1148.L3H3 1880. https://digital.library.mcgill.ca/countyatlas/searchmapframes.php
Figure 1c – Advertisement, The Ottawa Citizen, 30 November 1898. Source: Newspapers.com

As early as 1868, Joseph and Margaret started breeding Ayrshires; as he reported to the Ontario Agricultural Commission in 1880[6]:

“If the Ayrshire does not bring as much for beef, it costs less in proportion to feed them than the Durham.  If going into cattle feeding for market, I would prefer the Galloways or Polled Angus. They are thriftier animals for our bare pastures in summer, and hardier in winter. … against the native stock, the Ayrshires would be better for milk by one-third.  The skim milk is very good for raising calves.”

The Yuills entered their Ayshires at local and provincial Agricultural Fairs, eventually winning prizes at the World Fair in Chicago in 1893. Joseph wrote articles for agricultural journals and became President of the Dominion Ayshire Breeders Association from 1891 to 1893.[7]   By the 1890s, Joseph and Margaret expanded into education with a “traveling dairy” that included demonstrations on butter churning and talks on farming, [8] and by the late 1890s Ottawa businesses were advertising Yuill “Choice Table Butter” (Figure 1c).

At the time of the 1871 census, though, Joseph and Margaret were in the early stages of building their herd, and they still shared farming responsibilities with father Alex. All farm products were reported against Alex’s 100 acres, although they would have shared the farms’ production. This profile considers both farms together.

Farm Energy Funds*

In 1871, Alex Yuill and son Joseph farmed 200 acres or 81 hectares, whereas the average farm in Ramsay Township was 51.5 ha.  Of this total, 70 percent (57 ha) had been cleared. Of the cleared land, 18.6 ha were given over to pasture, and they reported 0.2 ha of gardens.

Figures 2a and 2b: Agroecosystem Land Use for the Alex and Joseph Yuill farms and the Ramsay Census Subdivision. The Yuills had a greater proportion of land cleared and in pasture and hay than the county average.

Jointly they reported 2 horses, 6 milk cows, 15 other horned cattle, 32 sheep and 5 swine, resulting in a livestock density ratio of 22.3 (livestock units per km2), slightly higher than the livestock density ratio of 16.1 for the district. With an emphasis on building their Ayrshire herd, the Yuills had both a larger quantity and higher quality of cattle than the average Ramsay farm.  The average number of ruminants grazing the pasture was the same for the Yuills as the district as a whole, at 0.82 livestock units per hectare (LUr/ha); however, if the milchers were purebred Ayrshires, we should also assume that they were receiving an enriched feed supply and producing significantly higher levels of milk than the standard yields estimated in AMPA. As Yuill stated in 1880 (see above), he expected a 33 percent higher milk output from their Ayrshires.

Farm Energy Flows*

The Yuills reported 53 acres (21.5 ha) of hay over the two farms, producing 50 tons of hay or .9 tons per acre. The district average of 15 acres (6.1 ha) of hay per farm, with a similar production of .8 tons of hay per acre, was significantly less. This hay yield is among the lower rates in Canada, but what Alex and Joseph lacked in quality they made up in quantities of hay and lower grazing intensity on their pastures. These land use strategies partly explain why they did not require residues for feed as the average farmer in the CSD would have (Figure 3b).

Although the majority of their lands were dedicated to hay and pasture for their cattle and sheep, the main farm also grew a relatively diverse output of crops: oats, wheat, and peas as well as smaller vegetable, potato, and barley crops.  Fifty-eight percent of the grains and crop biomass was reused for feed and litter, although that would be higher if one considers peas as a livestock feed, as a certain proportion almost certainly was.  Ramsay township as a whole had very similar energy flows in both crop production and feed and litter demands. The main difference, as the charts show above, was that other Ramsay farmers likely used more crop residues as fodder to meet those feed demands.

The Yuills produced approximately 46,000 MJ of energy from meat (cattle, sheep, and swine), and dairy products (butter and cheese) which was higher than the Ramsay average of 32,000 MJ per farm but comparable given their relative acreage.  More than half of this energy was milk.  Their flows were consistent with the district as a whole, although the Yuills generated more energy from cattle as they were starting to develop their business in Ayrshire breeding.

Given the wool industry of Lanark county, the Yuills reported a typical amount of wool production (200lbs) but no home-made cloth and flannel. Margaret Yuill apparently often helped with shearing and processing wool, but as her obituary explained (Figure 6), the presence of textile mills such as The Rosamond Woolen Company in Almonte created nearby markets for their wool.[9] As farmers and cattle breeders, the Yuills did not apparently use their woodlot beyond personal use in the two households, reporting 20 cords of firewood for both households, well below the household average of 34 cords per farm in Ramsay. Ramsay farmers’ average firewood outputs were higher than national averages because of the commercial opportunities the steamship waterways of Eastern Ontario provided to petit producers.

Conclusions

Figure 6 – Extract from The Ottawa Citizen, 22 May 1936.  Source: Newspapers.com.

The Yuill farms were consistent in energy strategy with Ramsay township as a whole in 1871, showing the initial inputs required to develop a prize Ayrshire herd and reputation for butter production. 

Unfortunately, Joseph Yuill’s sons showed less interest in maintaining their parents’ prize Ayrshire herd: after his father’s death in 1905, son Alexander sold the herd[10] but Andrew continued to farm some of the property.[11] Margaret would remain active in the community until her death in 1936.

“Meadowside” was later purchased by Alan and Betty Thompson, who by the 1970s were providing farm vacations on their property to supplement the farm income.[12]  Today’s Google Maps shows a patchwork of fields and woodlots, and a nearby nursery business at Ramsay Creek, which once ran through the Yuill farms.

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


[1] S. Lynn Campbell and Susan L. Bennett, “YUILL, JOSEPH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 19, 2021, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/yuill_joseph_13E.html

[2] Reid, Richard M. Upper Ottawa Valley to 1855. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990. p. xxv.

[3] Reid, p. 22

[4] “Joseph Yuil”, 1871 Census of Canada, C-10018, Gatineau, QC: Library and Archives Canada.

[5] “Webber Woods of Wolf Grove Trails,” Ontario Nature Trails, Jun 12, 2019 https://ontarionaturetrails.com/trail/webber-woods-of-wolf-grove-trails/

[6] Ontario, Agricultural Commission, Report of the Commissioners, 1880 (C. B. Robinson, 1881), p. 264. https://archive.org/details/reportcommissio02woodgoog/page/n349/mode/2up

[7] Linda Seccaspina, “Notes on Alexander and Joseph Yuill.” https://lindaseccaspina.wordpress.com/2021/05/06/notes-on-alexander-and-joseph-yuill/

[8] Campbell & Bennett, Dictionary of Canadian Biography

[9] Richard Reid, “The Rosamond Woolen Company of Almonte: Industrial development in a rural setting,” Ontario History LXXV (September 1983): 266-89.

[10] Linda Seccaspina, “Farm Real Estate etc 1903-1908”, https://lindaseccaspina.wordpress.com/tag/real-estate-2/

[11] “Andrew Yuill”, 1921 Census of Canada. Source: Ancestry.com

[12] Linda Seccaspina, “Alan and Betty Thompson Meadowside Farms 7th Line Ramsay.” https://lindaseccaspina.wordpress.com/2018/01/28/alan-and-betty-thompson-meadowside-farms/

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.

The Back50 Project features new map layers

In the spring of 2021, the GeoREACH lab added three new map layers to the Back50 survey map of Prince Edward Island: the 1880 Meacham’s Atlas; the 1935 aerial photos; and the 2020 aerial photo survey.  These layers now offer survey participants and other members of the public a rich historical context for understanding land use change in PEI over the past 140 years.

Published in 1880 by the J. H. Meacham Company, the Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Province of Prince Edward Island was based on surveys made under the direction of C. R. Allen, C.E.  It was digitized and georeferenced by the GeoREACH lab in 2020 (https://projects.upei.ca/geolab/2020/01/31/illustrated-historical-atlas-of-the-province-of-prince-edward-island/).  The 1935 air photos are reproduced from the collection of the National Air Photo Library with permission of Natural Resources Canada. The 2020 aerial photo map was provided courtesy of the Resource Inventory and Modelling division of the PEI Department of Environment, Energy and Climate Action.

Josh MacFadyen presenting the updated Back 50 project at Orwell Corner Historic Village, PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, July 2021

Another development in this second year of the survey includes the Lab’s ability to hold small workshops where participants from a community or other group may see the history and maps from their properties of interest and contribute their stories in a group setting.

GeoREACH Lab Director, Dr. Josh MacFadyen was also interviewed by Island Morning on CBC radio on August 12 to increase visibility and participation in the Back50 project, and profiled on CBC local news:  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-upei-back-50-project-creating-interactive-land-use-map-1.6138810

For more information about how you can participate in the survey please visit the Back 50 project page. www.upei.ca/Back50

If you would like to arrange a group presentation and workshop or a follow-up interview to share your own community history and learn more about the research, please contact Josh at jdmacfadyen@upei.ca or call 902-620-5142.