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Map of outlying lots with cows

Abandoned farm equipmentAt the opening of the twentieth century, up to 22,000 Islanders were directly employed in the farming industry, almost a third of the population of the province at the time. But agriculture was more than just a job on the Island-- it was an entire way of life. The family bond could not separated from the farm, and land was passed from generation to generation as a birthright. Communities like Kensington also built themselves up on the fat of the land, as crop returns paid the schoolteacher's salary, helped build the churches, and bought goods in local shops. As went farming, so went the entire town.

Although the number of Island farmers saw a steady decrease in the first half of the century, down to 13,000 by 1950, the amount of acreage in production did not decrease-- and has even increased. The undeniable fact behind these figures is the move away from the family farm and toward specialized and mechanized cultivation. Changing times have meant changes to how Islanders practice and understand farming. The self-sufficient, mixed farm has given way to a large-scale, even multinational form of agriculture, a shift which continues to influence the character of Island life as a whole.

Family Farm

Children feeding a calf.Most farmers in the early twentieth century worked on the traditional family farm. Like the land, farming practices were also passed down from generation to generation, by word-of-mouth and by example. From the time they could walk, children were expected to start learning how to collect eggs and milk cows. There was always something else to be done, because on these mixed, self-sufficient operations, everything from the food on your plate to the sweater on your back often came directly from the farm itself.

The Traditional Farmer | Farm Women | Mixed Farming

In the Fields
Nicknamed the 'Garden of the Gulf,' Prince Edward Island has always had a wide variety of crops growing in its soil. While it is famous around the world for its seed and table potatoes, Island fields certainly have more in the bud than spuds, especially since potato production demands an effective system of crop rotation if the soil is not to become depleted. The farmer has always needed to be an expert on his land, knowing how to set fertilizer levels and fight weeds and insects. But farming also means coming to terms with those elements beyond your control, such as weather, prices, and the health of family members.

Potatoes | Other Crop Varieties | Fertilization | Tending the Land

In addition to caring for their land, mixed farmers had to know how to tend to their livestock. Because most family needs were met by what they produced themselves, every farm had a menagerie of animals to rival Noah's ark, from chickens and geese to cows and goats. Sometimes a lack of feed became a problem, especially for early farmers, and farmers always had to remain on the lookout for disease. The silver fox industry is a fascinating footnote to Island farming history. In the 1920's, the raising of these foxes for their rare and beautiful fur touched off an Island version of the 'silver rush.'

Farm Animals | Fox Farming

Farm Organizations
With new amenities that allowed farmers to heighten production, and rising market demand, the local farming sector responded by developing a wide range of new institutions and organizations. The KensingtonFarmers taking in the hay
Dairy Association was established to manage the farmer's increased milk supply, and in 1945 expanded to become the Kensington Co-operative. Canada Packers provided a feed outlet and a poultry and egg-grading plant, and a grain elevator and a potato-processing plant also appeared on the Kensington landscape. Through 4-H and provincial fair associations, children and their parents alike exhibited their animals and crops, taking pride in their work and sharing hints about better farming practice.

Agricultural Business | Farm Groups