(PHOTO: “We keep things going one way or another,” said Lillian Hobbs, 91, the owner of the Hobbs farm. When she was called up to receive her sign, she cracked: “I’m the oldest!”. Photo by Devyn Barrie.)
Keith Hobbs still has the commemorative sign his farm received in 1967 to mark it as a century farm after 107 years of operation.
It’s faded and rusty, but now he has a new sign to take its place – this time to mark his as one of Stittsville’s sesquicentennial family farms.
At a packed ceremony inside the Stittsville library on Saturday, Nov. 25, the Goulbourn Township Historical Society presented these signs to Hobbs and three other local farming families – the Anderson’s, the Dawson’s and the Kenny’s – who all have spent 150 years or more working the land.
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The signs were made by Junior Farmers of Ontario (JFO), a group that ran the original century farm signs project in 1967 and again made the commemorative signs this year for sale to farms across the province. In collaboration with JFO’s Quintina Cuddihy, the Goulbourn Township Historical Society purchased the signs, as well as reproductions of the ones made in 1967, for Stittsville’s four 150 year farms.
In a short speech before the ceremony began, Cuddihy said the area has changed a lot since the original sign project.
“With a lot of old Carleton County in what is now downtown Ottawa, we don’t often get the opportunity to present these (here),” Cuddihy said.
A lot has changed in the Goulbourn area over the past few decades. Farmland has been replaced by subdivisions and box stores and the population of 30,000 is many times larger than it was in the 1950s when it stood around 500.
“We keep things going one way or another,” said Lillian Hobbs, 91, the owner of the Hobbs farm and Keith’s mother. When she was called up to receive her sign, she cracked: “I’m the oldest!” and sent the audience into a chuckle.
In an interview following the ceremony, she said it was an honour to be recognized as a part of history.
“It’s 157 years since grandpa James Hobbs walked from where he lived on the seventh line to Perth to buy the farm that I have.”
“I think we can be proud of what our farmers have done,” she said, clutching her sign.
The earliest traces of what is now the Hobbs farm go back to 1825, when the land at Goulbourn’s lot 12, concession six (now 7542 Mansfield Rd.) was owned by James Cullen. Eventually Cullen left and in 1860 James Hobbs walked all the way to Perth to obtain the land title from the government.
Lillian joked she certainly doesn’t work the land at her age, but another farmer pays them to harvest there instead.
“I still say I run the farm,” she said with a smile. “I sell it to a good farmer… he has good modern machinery and he does a good job of working it.”
This year’s sign initiative was started by Ian White, a Glen Cairn resident and member of the Goulbourn Township Historical Society, who wanted to know how many local farms had been around for at least 150 years.
“I got ticked off,” at the loss of farmland in the area, White said. He said decades ago one could drive along Hazeldean Road and see only farms.
“If you make the same drive today, it’s hard to find a blade of green grass.”
Keith Hobbs said that while it is certainly progress, he’s never heard anyone say the loss of farms is a good thing.
“In the beginning, farming was everything and everyone was a farmer,” said Keith Hobbs. “I’m not against progress but it pains me (to see the changes).”