Recently at the GeoREACH Lab, we have taken an interest in the Community Pasture Program in Atlantic Canada. Its prairie province counterpart is undoubtedly better known for its role in Western Canada’s agricultural recovery after the Great Depression. Still, the initiative was brought to this side of the country as well. In 1962, an Island farmer named Ken MacLean, along with several other community members, founded the Lot 16 Community Pasture. With help from ARDA, and later the LDC, community pastures expanded on PEI beyond Lot 16, and by 1979 the program had over seven thousand acres of land across all three counties.
The program was essential for the implementation of proper pasture management practices on Prince Edward Island. It also provided Island farmers with the chance to pasture their animals for a low price (often less than a dollar per day) and use their lands for hay and silage instead. For much of the 20th century, the main goal of farmers on the Island was to come up with enough fodder to feed the rapidly growing herds. The community pastures helped alleviate some of this demand, which often exceeded what individual farms could meet on their own land and dollar alone.
Using energy analysis tools, we will be exploring the various roles that community pastures have played in the local grazing communities for the past sixty years. Stay tuned for updates!
“Community Pasture.” 1976. In Pages from the Past, edited by Violet MacGregor, Eileen Manderson, Jennie Betton and Etta Hutchinson, 51-52: Lot 16 Women’s Institute.
Prince Edward Island Land Development Corporation: Activities and Impact 1970-1977. 1979. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada. http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2020/eccc/En73-1-16-eng.pdf
Rogers, David. 1963. Grasslands, Pastures, Silage and Hay: A Major Resource of Prince Edward Island. Charlottetown: UPEI.
“This afternoon brought our farmers the end of their wood-splitting. From a window, where we sat comfortably at our mending, we saw last sticks being thrown to the heap, and the base of it made neat and compact, and then much as we would stop to regard and admire a fresh-gathered bouquet, the men paused to view their handiwork before leaving the scene of it, the lengthy and toilsome task over at last. ‘It’s remarkable,’ James commented of it when he came in to supper, ‘how much of a chore a fellow can get done, if he only is content to keep at it. A few minutes each day, Ellen, given over to some work or another, will one day give one ‘something done’ to be proud of. You know that was quite a heap of blocks to start at and we with only small time to give to it – some days not as much as a dozen sticks made, but,’ and he drew a happy sigh, ‘just by sticking at it- there it’s done!’”
“‘You’d think some Superman had been here’ one of the children chuckled this evening reporting on today’s first endeavour of the farm. ‘Big trees uprooted, great stones moved, stumps and bushes taken out… What a mess. They’re powerful machines, those bulldozers.’
“This was today’s great interest of these farms. A great machine moved in to clear away certain hedgerows and woodsy knolls for the sake of neatness and to make more open and arable the area about.
“All day the work continued in this and that location until in the upheaval left in its wake one might well suppose that some Superman had passed by.
“‘When we stop to consider how laborious it was to clear land back in the years- with axe and a hoe and a pry, or later, with the help of a stumper, hand- or horse-powered, it’s amazing to watch a bulldozer at work,’ James said this afternoon.
“‘It’s incredible what one can do- and so quickly. For example today, well years ago, it couldn’t have been attempted at all. No, couldn’t even have been considered.’
“It is likely some gallant old trees perished in the endeavour, wide-spreading maples, and birches, ringed with time, sturdy spruces, gay little firs.
“‘Remember that clump of birches, Ellen, out in the open field?” James queried, ‘That’s cleared away now, and the great stone too about which they grew.”
The Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Province of Prince Edward Island, colloquially known as Meacham’s Atlas of 1880, was one of the first attempts to map PEI in its entirety. A whole host of information can be found within the atlas; from detailed maps of each of the lots on the island – down to the individual houses, to realistic drawings of prominent citizens and their properties. It is a dream resource for any Island historian!
For us at the GeoREACH lab, the atlas represents yet another opportunity to compile data on energy usage on the island during this period. We can see in the atlas the individual lots that compose our island even to today, each with personalized property information. The cartographers went so far as to outline the individual houses, barns, other infrastructure and property owners for each lot.
An important step in gathering the data from Meacham’s Atlas was to centralize all the available rasters (individual images) to a single resource. As all the lots were created independently, they would have to be stitched together into a single, geographically accurate map in a process formally known as mosaicing. This is why we have made, using GIS, a comprehensive mosaic of all the lots to easier represent this information.
Beyond that, we also entered data points for the over 16,000 buildings indicated on the map. Though it is still a work in progress, it is now available to be explored. You can adjust the different layers through the content window to look at churches, houses, mills, or schools, or can zoom in to a region you know well to see what it looked like in 1880!
“The Kestrel or Sparrow Hawk is about the size of a Robin, and is the only small hawk which has a shade of chestnut-red in its tail feathers. Reed truly says that it has ‘bright colors and odd markings.’ It is so handsome and at the same time so evidently harmless, that it has escaped much of the destruction aimed at its larger companions. Another point in its favor is its ability to adapt itself to its environment: it is equally at home in the pasture lands of the east and the forests of other regions.
“The Kestrel feeds principally on mice, large insects, frogs, and snakes. At times it attacks birds and may kill jays, quail, and other birds as large as itself. It may visit towns where sparrows abound, whence the name ‘Sparrow-hawk.’ Dr. Taverner, however, thinks that a more appropriate name would be “Grasshopper Hawk.” (And he notes that when taken from the nest young, this little falcon is easily tamed.) Scientists have examined 291 stomachs and found that birds were killed and eaten only in the winter when insects are not available. “It is obvious that the Sparrow Hawk is beneficial and should be protected.”
“Kestrel or Sparrow Hawk. AOU 360. Summer Resident- List, 1916. One observed at Alberton, 1937.
“Adult Male: Head slaty blue, crown rufous; face pattern black and white. Black rufous with or without black spots or bars. Wings blue gray; tail rufous-red with a wide sub-terminal black band and a narrow white tip. Underparts creamy white to buff, a few black spots or none.
“Female: Head and face like male; black wings and tail rufous, barred black; underparts more or less dark brown and streakedImmature birds resemble adults. Length of adult 10.5 inches.”