Donald MacLellan has been a farmer for more than six decades and he has no intention of winding down his career anytime soon.
“My farming life has never been about money. It has been a way of life for myself and my family that I would never trade for anything else,” the long-time Eastern Nova Scotia Exhibition (ENSE) manager wrote in the program for the 2019 fall fair.
MacLellan was asked to reflect on his career in agriculture on those pages as a way in which to recognize him being named the Kings Mutual Cattle Producer of the Year by the Nova Scotia Cattle Producers.
As the organization describes on its website – nscattle.ca – the annual award acknowledges a Nova Scotia beef producer or dealer for “outstanding contributions they make to the provincial cattle industry.”
In 1957, MacLellan bought what he described as “three small farms” in Beaver Meadow, Antigonish County, and then started farming on a larger scale with a team or horses.
One year later, he remodeled a horse barn with three floors for broiler chickens, while also travelling to a farm sale in Bridgewater, where he bought a Nova National purebred Hereford bull that had come from the Royal Agricultural Fair in Toronto.
In the thumbnail sketch of his farming career, MacLellan talked about how tragedy struck Feb. 13, 1959, just after midnight and in minus-34 degree Fahrenheit conditions.
“I got a call that there was a fire at my farm,” he said.
When the long-time firefighter and other members arrived at the farm, the cattle and chicken barns were engulfed.
MacLellan’s uncle, Bill Rogers – who worked for him – saved every animal, except the three-year-old bull.
In 1960, he and Ronnie MacDonald from James River travelled to Truro to purchase a bull; there were four Charolais yearling bulls that had been shipped in from Toronto.
The pair bought one, as did Buzz Chisholm of Guysborough Intervale; they were the first Charolais bulls brought into the area.
MacLellan has kept the breed on his farm ever since.
“Our farm is a cow/calf operation with 70 to 85 mixed commercial breed cows, along with 30 yearlings that we feed over the winter for the coming fall sale in Truro,” he explained, noting the farm has “always supported” the Truro Cattle Market.
They wrap all their feed to make hay – 1,100 to 1,200 five-foot bales – with half coming from the home farm and the rest from the other three they farm.
“I never lived on the farm and always had hired help,” MacLellan noted.
That changed when his son, Tom, made his home on the Beaver Meadow property more than 25 years ago, where his family has lived on and worked the farm.
In recognition of his outstanding career in farming, including the provincial award he received earlier this year, the Municipality of the County of Antigonish honoured MacLellan at its regular monthly meeting Oct. 15.
Before he and Deputy Warden Hughie Stewart presented MacLellan with a certificate of congratulations, Warden Owen McCarron praised the recipient for his “life’s commitment” to the farming community in Antigonish County.
“It is near and dear to his heart,” McCarron said.
He added MacLellan has been second-to-none when it comes to that commitment, including his dedication to the ENSE.
“I have always liked to help in any way that I could,” the soft-spoken MacLellan said, in thanking the county for the honour.
MacLellan’s children and grandchildren were on hand for the presentation.