Port Union

Sir William Coaker's Farm at Paradise

(originally published in the Fishermen's Advocate, December 14, 1934)

Three years ago Sir William Coaker started to clear a ten-acre patch near Elliston Station and erected a small, one-storey house, which he intended to use as a lodge to spend week-ends. He placed some sheep on the clearing to keep down the growth. He found sheep could not pay, to raise in this way, and in 1933 he cleared more land, built the barn, and the house, shown in the cut, and brought in cattle from Prince Edward Island, in order to prove for himself if cattle raising would be profitable on the East Coast.

To clear the land, which was quite rocky, and to break up a heavy covering of turf sod he secured a 20 h.p. tractor of the caterpillar type and a large plough especially made for breaking up new land. This outfit was used in the spring of 1934, and during the season 40 acres of unbroken land were cleared, of which 20 acres were sown down early in August to Timothy Hay seed and Clover. This cleaned up all available good land on hill number one.

The second ridge, or hill number two, was attacked in September and twenty to twenty-five acres of splendid soil which it contained have been cleared and ready for sowing to Timothy Clover and Oats. The intention is to grow twenty-five acres of Heavy Oats in 1935 and place the production in a silo, using an ensilage cutter to prepare the fodder for keeping in the silo, which will take fifty to sixty tons of green feed.

Hill number three contains about thirty acres of good agricultural soil, and will be cleared next July while the hay crop is growing. When this is done the farm will be capable of producing one hundred tons of Timothy and Clover Hay during a dry season, and one hundred and fifty tons of an average growth.

Sir William intends, next spring, to sow three acres of turnips for feeding the cattle during the winter, and test out the possibilities of feeding ensilage hay and turnips to fatten stall cattle in winter. The turnips will be ground to nut size, with a machine, as required from day to day and mixed with ensilage. The farm will therefore require a cellar to store five hundred barrels of turnips and a silo which will be circular, twenty-five to thirty feet high and twelve feet in diameter. Thus another busy season awaits Sir William, and when he completes his next season's work he will be able to safely say whether cattle raising can be made a success on the East Coast, and whether ensilage made from oats can be utilized to give satisfactory results in feeding cattle in Newfoundland.

Forty-five head of cattle are being fed on the farm this winter. The cattle fed about the hills, in the vicinity of the farm, during the past summer, and the calves took possession of all the milk and came in late in October in a splendid condition, some being as large and heavy as most young cattle would be at eighteen months with fair feeding.

The venture is one that confers, once again, upon the promoter, great credit, for not only does it mean expenditure of money but perseverance and keen attention. It will be remembered that Sir William farmed at Coakerville forty-five years ago, and remained on his farm there eighteen years, when he left to organize the F.P.U. and manage the business of the Trading Co. His love for farming was strong enough to coax him back into farming at Elliston Station, after he was sixty years old. Apparently he has chosen wisely, for not only has he transformed a wilderness which everyone believed was rock and bog into broad acres of agricultural land, and stocked the farm with cattle for production, but he has been able to maintain his health, which was anything but robust three years ago, and the time and attention that he has given to the farm proves what pleasure he derives from the occupation.

An Interview with Sir Wm. Coaker
(Originally published in the Fishermen's Advocate, October 16, 1936)

The accompanying cut on this page is from a snapshot taken at Paradise Farm last summer, after the new silo had been erected.

It shows the cattle barn containing two silos built into the barn to shelter it from heavy frosts in winter and from heavy winds. They rest on the solid ground and are thirty feet high. The two have a capacity of 130 tons of ensilage and about 110 tons of cut green oats were stored in them during the past season.

The main barn has stalls to accommodate 70 head of cattle and all the manure is shedded, none being exposed to the weather.

The barn on the left is for sheep and young cattle. In the foreground is Sir William with his two constant companions, Mutty and Spotty, smooth-haired, fox terriers, and the surroundings is a field of white clover and timothy.

The hay crop this season was not heavy owing to the most of the fields bearing the first crop, but 60 tons were cured and packed in the barn in addition to 15 tons locally purchased.

The farm buildings also include a slaughter house for dressing the animals slaughtered in the farm, and a dripping well or pool in which the cattle are driven in order to clean them of vermin before being stalled for winter.There are two sheds for storing farm utensils and equipment. Nothing is allowed to remain out of doors during winter.

The soil required lots of lime and fertilizers, and many tons have been used the past few years.

Sir William says that on no account would he farm on the East Coast if he was a young man, and the Paradise farm exists because after his work, as manager at Port Union, was finished he had to do something creative in order to provide some work to occupy his time.

He claims Newfoundland will not endure as an agricultural country. He could now grow 2,000 barrels of potatoes and 2,000 barrels of turnips, but there is no market at a price that will pay the cost of production. The soil is very suitable for the production of potatoes and turnips. The idea is to grow hay and oats sufficient to feed 70 to 80 head of cattle and 50 sheep. All the suitable land has been cleared and cultivated. The chief work now is to fertilize the farm and fit the soil to produce heavy crops of hay and oats. Mr. James Bailey is in charge of the farm. The farm is supplied with water from a well and it is served to the stalls by an electric pump. The cattle, therefore, are seldom allowed out of the barn, during the winter.

The electric transmission line passes through the farm en route to Bonavista, and Elliston Station is at the entrance gate to the farm, and being in close touch with electric power and the railway, it is very convenient, for without electric power and light the farm would be greatly handicapped.

Sir William's health is impaired, and he will never be active again, although he is about the farm every morning, soon after 6 a.m., and until 9 p.m. during the long and sunny days...

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