The earliest records of farmer’s organizations in Nova Scotia are understandably murky, but it appears the colony’s first agricultural society was formed in Horton, Kings County, in late 1789. Known originally as the Colonial Societias, its founders were mainly New England immigrants who had settled in Nova Scotia after the expulsion of the Acadians. The broad activities of this society included the importation of seed and livestock, rudimentary co-operative marketing, experimentation and even the establishment of Sunday schools and a circulating library. The real popularization of the agricultural society in Nova Scotia did not begin until well into the 19th century and it can be almost entirely attributed to one man, John Young.
The Nova Scotia Farmer’s Association was first conceived, oddly enough, not in a rural town hall or in the kitchen of a farmhouse, but in the offices of Dalhousie University. One day during the winter of 1894-95 Dr. Lawson and Prof.) H.W. Smith, principal of the small agricultural school at the Normal College in Truro, were having an informal chat about the general state of agricultural conditions in the province. The birth of the Nova Scotia Farmers’ Association was quick and unspectacular, but it was not insignificant. The NSFA was, in fact, the junction of the two main trends of agricultural organization in Nova Scotia: government sponsorship, as represented by the whole history of the agricultural societies; and the “grass roots” movement, as typified by the Grange experiment, the Farmers and Dairymen’s Association and, to a lesser extent, the Fruit Growers Association. Of the two, it must be admitted that the Farmers’ Association was more a product of the former than the latter.
The fielding government not only served as a parent but also as a mid-wife to the new child. However, the government’s task would have been far trickier had it not been able to rely on the popular support of the leaders of the Farmers and Dairymen’ s Association, who were committed to the principle of independent association and action. In the decades to come, the tension of this relationship between organized farmers and government (itself often subdivided into clashing factions of elected officials and professional bureaucrats) would be the single most important factor shaping the destiny of the 9 NSFA. When they co-operated the two sides would perform some great deeds. When they conflicted, little of value would generally ensue. But either way, even after eventually severing all formal ties, the two would never be able to ignore one another.
For more information on the History of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, you can download the eBook here.