Down On the Company Farm
It is unmistakable that the Grand falls-Windsor Curling Club looks like a barn. Which make perfect sense that it once was home to a herd of dairy cows. Interestingly enough the homes of two “country club” type sports-Golf and Curling are both on the former sites of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company’s dairy farm. The barn that is now a rink and the pastures that are now links are the last vestiges of the farms operated by the AND Co.
Back a hundred and ten years ago, Newfoundland had to be as self-sufficient as possible in the production of the limited types of vegetables and animals that could be raised here-with the exception of the salted beef and pork that were brought in. Most outport fishermen had gardens in which they grew there potatoes, cabbages, carrots, turnips and parsnips. People also usually had a few chickens to eat and for eggs. Most people had a pig or two to slaughter at Christmas, in some places people raised a lot of goats or sheep and if you were lucky you had a cow for milk. In places where you couldn’t grew much-most people traded fish for vegetables and other foods since those less hospitable places were usually located in close vicinity to very good fishing grounds.
In the case of Grand Falls there were no neighboring communities from which food could be easily and quickly brought in. Grand Falls was part of the small archipelago of inland communities connected by the railway line and there were many times during the run of any given winter that that line would be impassible. So along with the mill and the town, the AND Co started a far. Central Newfoundland is rich in alluvial topsoil, particularly in floodplains and at areas situated close to the rivers. So a suitable location for a farm was found between Rushy Pond and the Exploits River and it was named Farmdale.[i]
Farmdale was where most of the vegetables and some of the meat for Grand Falls was grown in the early years. The British higher ups with the mill saw great potential for farming in the area and imported different crops to experiment with including different types of barley. To run the farm the AND CO brought in a man by the name of Edward Powley to operated and manage the Farm. In 1921 there were five families living at Farmdale. This number included Mr. Powley and Solomon Marsh who defiantly worked on the farm along with the Murphy, and Squires families. Mr. William Anderson was also listed as living there and it is known that he operated his own farm separate from the company farm in the same area.
The most important and dominant function of the Farmdale operation was to supply milk to the inhabitants of Grand Falls. From the beginning milk was produced here and shipped to Grand Falls everyday. This would have been done by horse and cart by Rushy Pond road and possibly by rail. The cows of the dairy herd did a pretty good job of keeping the pastures clear, so much so that in the 1920’s some of the more affluent in Grand Falls started to shoot a few golf balls at Farmdale.
The end of Farmdale came around the same time, when a fire destroyed most of the structures located there. The decision was made to relocate the dairy to land near the Grand Falls House on Station Road, with the cows being housed in the present day curling club. The need for the company to grow vegetables and supply meats at that point had been mitigated by a number of factors, Including: The completion of the road to Botwood allowing easy shipment of food grown in the Point Leamington area and other areas of Notre Dame Bay and also the development of some farms by entrepreneurs based out of Grand Falls Station like the previously mentioned William Anderson and Mr. Gibson near Corduroy Pond.
You cannot appreciate the size of the AND Co dairy on Lincoln Road today. Most of the area is heavily grown in. But looking at an aerial photograph from 1946 reveals a relatively large block of pasture land that stretched from present day Sunset Drive to the grounds of the Grand Falls House.
Milk was delivered to houses in glass bottles bearing the label A.N.D Dairy, Grand Falls. Today these bottles are sought after collectables. The newest of these bottles would be over sixty years old. This is because around 1953 the A.N.D Company sold its dairy operations to Brookfield. Brookfield phased out on site milk production but continued to operate from a building at the same site until the early 1990’s. With the cows gone the old dairy barn became the Grand Falls Curling club, which is still housed in the nearly 90 year old structure today.
The farm operations of the A.N.D Company were not confined to Grand Falls. Not only did they have to feed their workers in Grand Falls also had to provide for the loggers and horses in the woods. The largest woods division farm was located a little north of Millertown on the branch railway there. Here the company grew some of the vegetables shipped to the camps but the farm was mainly concerned with the production of hay and the feeding of the hundreds of horses used in the woods. The Millertown farm was the site of large barn that housed some of the horses and was used to store much of the hay that was stockpiled for the winter. From the barn the bales of hay could be conveyed onto rail car and shipped down into the camps by boat or on the Harpoon Tramway.[ii]
There were also smaller plots scattered in the other divisions growing a few potatoes and cabbages for the camps and some hay for the horses. The company did not like to have to keep more horses than they needed to during the spring and summer. There are accounts of them letting the horses run wild in various pastures in the woods, selling them off and even shooting some horses deemed useless-since it was cheaper to bring in more and to hire them from teamsters who owned their own horses. By the mid 1960’s horses had been phased out in favor of skidders and there was no need to grow any hay.
Gradually the ‘Company” divested itself from the town of Grand Falls. A mentioned the dairy barn became the curling club, on the same grounds the towns second set of tennis courts was built.[iii] Farmdale eventually became the site of a fully developed 9-hole golf course which even hosted Bob Hope during the Second World War. By the early 2000s the course had expanded across the brook which connects Rushy Pond to the Exploits into an 18-hole course. If you look around it is difficult to find any traces of the farm that was there, but there are trees old enough and enough out of place that they may have been planted in the days when the area was a model farm for a garden town.
Interesting side note
Some have said that the AND Co at times may have discouraged its workers from growing their own vegetables, this was not the case during the two World Wars when residents were encouraged to till their own little plots. This was particularly true during the Second World War when area residents cleared out plots in the forests that surrounded the town. They can be clearly seen in a 1946 aerial photo. Areas that were home to these “Victory Gardens” were: The present site of the Sutherland Drive playground and ball fields, Louis John Hill and Union Street, behind the houses on the east side of Lincoln Road and the whole area that became Memorial Avenue and St. Mikes.
[i] 1921 Census Farmdale
[ii] Kitchen, John By the Sweat of My Brow
[iii] Besides the court in behind the old NDA There also appears to have been a tennis court at the Grand Falls House in the days of Sir Vincent Jones who was a noted tennis player.