Agriculture. (continued)

  473. Much can also be done to stimulate the raising of animals. The country is well-suited to goats, and in many parts also to sheep, but in many localities the prevalence of dogs militates against the keeping of these animals. Under the law of Newfoundland the keeping of dogs is decided by local option; in some parts of the country dogs are doubtless of special value as haulers of sledges, but in most localities it would be to the general advantage that they should be dispensed with in favour of sheep and goats, even though the people would have to haul their own fuel. In those parts where sheep are kept the inhabitants make most of their own clothing and find in the wool a welcome source of revenue; while goats provide a continuous supply of milk and butter at minimum cost. During our visit to the outports we were impressed by the relatively superior conditions found in those places which have continued to place reliance on sheep and goats in preference to dogs.

  474. Pigs and poultry can also be kept without difficulty and we were glad to hear of an effort recently launched to stimulate the keeping of pigs in the district of Trinity (South). What can be done there can be done in other places, and we hope that the raising of these animals will now receive greater attention than it has done in the past.

  475. Experiments undertaken in recent years in encouraging the keeping of cows have not met with success, but their failure is attributable not so much to climatic reasons as to lack of experience in the care and treatment of such animals and the difficulty of affording expert guidance.

  476. In general, the notable decrease in the Island's live stock since 1921 has caused us serious concern. It is of great importance that the people should be encouraged to set greater store by their live stock and we recommend that an expert adviser should be specially engaged to enquire into the present position and report on the methods by which an increase in the country's live stock could best be brought about.

  477. Within the last two years, two Associations have been formed in the Island with the object of promoting the development of agriculture as a basic industry. These Associations are the Land Development Association, with headquarters at St. John's, and the Newfoundland Co-operative Self-Help Association, with headquarters at Harbour Grace. The former Association, which was formed in the spring of 1932, has been able, by means of donations and subscriptions received from the public, to distribute large quantities of potatoes and other seeds to necessitous people, mostly in St. John's. In the autumn of 1932 the Association established a market in a disused cold storage plant in St. John's, and produce to the value of $7,000 was disposed of by this means. Cold storage facilities were also provided for over 200 tons of cabbage, and encouragement given to the making of crates. The activities of the Association have thus given occupation to a number of unemployed workers and have afforded them the prospect of becoming self-supporting. The undertaking has not been free from the difficulties attendant on the initiation of any new enterprise, but we hope that the experience gained in the last two years will suggest means by which it can be carried forward with still more useful results.

Grace Harbour [sic], looking East, n.d.
Photographer unknown. From the album of photographs furnished to the Newfoundland Royal Commission, August 1933. Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll-207), Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.
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  478. The aim of the Association at Harbour Grace, as its name implies, has been to encourage the people to support themselves by their own efforts. The Association has increased rapidly in membership and its endeavours have been attended with an encouraging degree of success.

  479. Great credit is due to the public-spirited citizens responsible for the organisation of these Associations, whose activities, if carefully planned and related to projects within their immediate capacity, should not only exercise a beneficial economic effect but also promote a spirit of self-reliance in a naturally hard-working and resourceful people.

Wild Fruit.

  480. Newfoundland possesses a great variety of wild fruit, of which the most common are the blueberry, the partridgeberry, the cranberry and the wild raspberry. In August and early September the open country is covered with blueberries and the collecting and packing of these berries for export has become one of the smaller industries of the Island.

  481. The first shipments of blueberry were made in 1927-28 and since then some 2,300,000 gallons of the value of over $1,000,000 have been exported. The full figures are as follows:

Fiscal Years.
Value. $
1927-28 ........................................
1928-29 ........................................
1929-30 ........................................
1930-31 ........................................
1931-32 ........................................
1932-33 ........................................

  482. The principal market for blueberries is the United States, which has absorbed all but 40,000 gallons of the shipments made since the industry was started. Efforts have been made to find markets in the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany, but these have not so far been successful. If the berries could be mixed with other berries, such as the partridgeberry, their sale in these countries might perhaps be stimulated. Owing to the depression and to the high tariff on Newfoundland berries, the demand in the United States has been at low level during the last two years, but it has improved in the present season and there is reason to hope that the industry is entering on a period of revival and expansion. The price paid to pickers of berries this year was 10 cents a gallon, but the profusion with which the berries grow is such that, even at this low rate, hundreds of families have been ensured of a welcome addition to their earnings from other sources.

  483. There would seem to be an opportunity for the establishment in Newfoundland of a jam-making industry on a large scale. Besides the berries which have been mentioned there are many other native berries which could be used for jam-making; the country is also favourably adapted for the growing of strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, plums, and currants.

Fur-Bearing Animals.

  484. As we have pointed out in a previous Chapter,* Newfoundland is a country admirably suited to the raising of fur-bearing animals. The population being largely confined to the sea-coast, vast areas of land exist in the interior where such animals could flourish in ideal conditions without interference. That the fur industry has not attained greater proportions has been due partly to lack of organised protection and partly to the instinctive desire of Newfoundlanders to kill anything within sight, even if by so doing they are destroying their future prospects of income. Much, however, may be accomplished by propaganda, and we feel convinced that if the full possibilities of a fur-bearing industry could be explained to the people and a new body of wardens established under enlightened leadership, great stretches of land which at present offer no return to the community could within a few years be brought to yield substantial benefits.

  485. Newfoundland is the natural home of the beaver, otter, fox, bear, lynx, marten and muskrat. Mink flourish in Labrador and could probably be introduced into the Island without difficulty. These creatures require no artificial conditions but merely freedom from interference. If this could be assured to them, the interior of Newfoundland, or at least those areas outside the immediate range of the Paper Companies' operations, might eventually be transformed into a vast fur-farm.

  486. Under the present system, the killing of these animals is subject to regulations issued by the Game and Inland Fisheries Board, which was first established under statute in 1908. The Board has succeeded in accomplishing much useful work, but almost from the first it met with little or no co-operation from the public, and it has been denied the funds to enable it to build up an adequate protective service. The total income of the Board at the present time is $30,000, of which $15,000 is contributed by the Government. The remainder is drawn from fees and from licences issued to trappers and sportsmen. Five supervisors are employed by the Board, and these in turn are in charge of some 79 wardens. The latter are now employed whole time but only during certain seasons. On an average they receive $100 for four months' work. Their duties are not such as to bring them popularity and it may well be supposed that, at this rate of wages, the Board experience difficulty in obtaining suitable men. Moreover, in addition to the protection of fur-bearing animals, the Board are charged with the duty of controlling all the game resources of the Island, including animals such as caribou and moose and birds such as partridge and duck, and also the salmon and trout fishing on the lakes and rivers. As the fishing is nowhere preserved in private hands, it is natural that much of the wardens' time should be occupied with patrolling the rivers, to the neglect of other parts of the country.

  487. While the Board has been struggling to do such protective work as its small resources and the indifference of the public allow, circumstances have been too strong for it and the situation to-day is lamentable. There are very few bears left, the beaver has been practically exterminated, the otter, marten and lynx have been reduced to a fraction of their former numbers. The fox alone is said to be holding its own.

  488. An efficient system of protection would also have a marked effect on the numbers of caribou and moose. These animals, though nominally the subject of a close season, have within the last two years been killed off at such a rate that, unless the process is checked, they will shortly be in danger of extinction. From the economic point of view caribou and moose may not be of the same potential value to the country as fur-bearing animals. But they are none the less important assets, since their presence appeals to tourists and sportsmen and carefully preserved herds would do much to contribute to the food supply of the people and to provide skins from which boots, gloves and leather could be made.

  489. The introduction of reindeer, if conducted on the proper lines, might bring even greater benefits to the people, since these animals could doubtless be used for hauling. We have recorded elsewhere the failure, after initial success, of the experiments made by Sir Wilfred Grenfell,† which proved conclusively that, apart from the human element, there is no reason why reindeer should not flourish in Newfoundland.

  490. In our view, then, the initiation of an adequate system of protection should be undertaken without delay. The first step would be to obtain expert advice from Canada, or from some other country where conditions are similar, as to how such a system might best be set up and by what measures a revenue-producing industry might best be fostered and developed. Such measures would probably include the constitution of a new controlling authority. Once such a scheme had been worked out, from both the scientific and administrative standpoints, the next step would be to arrange for the establishment of the new body of Game Wardens which would doubtless be required for its execution. This body might, we suggest, be organised on similar lines to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which performs similar services in the hinterland of Canada, and we recommend that, when this stage is reached, the Commandant of the Canadian Police should be consulted with a view to the secondment of a few trained members of that force who could assist in the training of the Newfoundland body. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police undertake numerous other duties in addition to those of game wardens, and we suggest in a later chapter additional ways in which the services of such a force in Newfoundland might be utilised. A force of 30-40 men would probably be sufficient for the immediate purposes in view.

  491. An interesting suggestion was made to us that, in the large area in the south of the Island, the herds of caribou and moose might be held for the benefit of the community in that area. The opportunity of farming or gardening is limited, owing to the lack of suitable soil and the rugged nature of the coast-line on which the people live; if the produce of the herds were reserved for the benefit of the people in the area, it would not only be a great help to them but would encourage them to take an active interest in the preservation of the herds.

  * Chapter V, paras. 243-245.
  † Chapter V, para. 244.

Image description updated May, 2004.

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