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The Arda Pastureland (Victoria County Community Pasture)

May 11, 2024

Victoria County Community Pasture at Sunset

By Guy Scott

Much of the farmland in north-eastern Eldon Township had shallow soils on limestone bedrock. In other words, it made poor farmland. The lots were cleared by early settlers, but became exhausted and unproductive for cash crop farming. After a century, many of the farms were abandoned or turned to pasture.

In 1963, a federal-provincial partnership for land rehabilitation called ARDA was set up. The two levels of government split the cost of land purchase and improvements, with the Provincial Government operating the program on a county basis. Victoria County was an eager participant and 2,200 acres of pasture land near Hartley and Glenarm was purchased for ARDA. Old farm buildings were torn down and many farm families simply moved away. What was once marginal farms became community pasture.

The objective was to rehabilitate the land for cattle pasture. This included reseeding, fencing and procuring water supplies. A Community Pasture Committee of local farmers was formed to administer the program. The beef farmers signed up a fixed number of cattle for the grazing season. All cattle were weighed at delivery and pick up in the fall. The farmers paid 22 cents per pound for weight gained. There was a minimum of $44 per animal. A farm manager was hired to oversee the operation. Each animal had to have an ear tag identifying marker. For the entire grazing season, the cattle roamed the huge pastures owned by ARDA before returning home for the winter season.

By 1984 the operation had 10 pastures with 1,025 head of cattle owned by 117 farmers. Many more applied, but space was regulated. Clearly this plan was popular with local beef farmers. ARDA was a great cooperative that made use of marginal farm land in the most effective way. Even today you can see the large herds of cattle along the Glenarm Road in the ARDA pastures.

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