TC • MEDIA - The connection between the Acadians and the landscape at Grand Pré is widely known. A tale far less familiar was recounted by Dr. Julian Gwyn at a symposium last month.
The retired history professor told a story from 1940, when the farmers who owned the Grand Pré dyke land offered to sell their fields as an artillery range.
In the end the great meadow was too short to support a military purpose, Gwyn stated.
“The idea was nonsense. Those farmers wanted to bail out.”
At the end of the Great Depression, men and boys fled Nova Scotia’s subsistence farms. Those who remained were dispirited and undercutting each other.
North Grand Pré farmer Robert Palmeter, who was in the audience, said many farmers feel the same today.
“With the price we receive some crops are not worth growing because of Canada’s cheap food policy,” he said.
His wife, Ann, added, “we don’t make money, we make a living.”
Gwyn, who is writing a book about the history of agriculture in Kings County, spoke of the boom years of apple exports to Britain and then the collapse of prices in the 1920s.
He noted the leadership of the apple cooperative Scotian Gold and said farmers here need cooperatives but resist them.
When asked why the quota system is under fire in Canada today, Gwyn responded, “I think it’s madness myself.”
Dr. Deborah Stiles, who teaches at the N.S. Agricultural College, outlined her belief that agriculture heritage points the way to sustainable development in the future.
“Places like Grand Pré and Ross Farm, it goes without saying, have an educational function.”
She added that it’s important to pay attention to rural history and the past.
“We cannot forget what happened at Grand Pré in terms of rural restructuring,” she said.
Praising older farmers who are open to transitioning out of operation, Stiles said, “we have to train up the next generation and maybe they won’t make all the mistakes of the past.”
Science isn’t going to save humanity, she added.
“We have entered a point in time when we are all aware of the world and our neighbours.”
The symposium this spring was the third held by Nomination Grand Pré and it marked the International Day for Monuments and Sites.
Summer of events
The Grand-Pré National Historic Site, which opened for the season May 15, has many activities planned for the upcoming summer.
The elm tree sculpture will be unveiled July 1. It will symbolize Mi’kmaq, Acadian and New England Planter heritage. Admission is free that day.
Acadian Days is scheduled for July 20 to 22.Among the events planned are a social evening, talks on Saturday, the traditional mass, entertainment and kiosks on Sunday.
The Acadian and Francophone community of Halifax/Dartmouth/Chezzetcook will be honoured at Grand-Pré this year. The musical program will feature the group Unisson and the popular Acadian singer Monique Poirier, formerly with Ode à l’Acadie, and her group.
On July 28, the eighth annual commemorative ceremony to mark the 1755 decision to deport the Acadian population will take place at Horton Landing.
The third biannual Canadian Chefs’ Congress will be held at the historic site from Sept. 16 to 18. The public will be invited to meet participating chefs and to taste dishes from the land Sept. 18.
For more information about these and other activities planned at the site, consult the Société Promotion Grand-Pré website.