Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Elite Seed Farm, former Ashley Homestead, Fox Island

     Recently I was over to Fox Island in western Prince Edward Island.  It's located at 269 Fox Island Rd., off Rte. 12, between Alberton and Cascumpec.  
     Cumin's 1928 Atlas of Prince Edward Island shows the Island belonging to Lowden Ashley with 182-acres. Lowden was married to Susan Lewis and had the following children: Rhodes, John, Gladys, Alvin, Elmer, Freda, Fred and Harold.  
     Lowden *Loudy* Huestis Ashley (1877-1953), son of John Butcher Ashley and Sarah Stapley Wallace married Susan *Susie* Lewis (1878-1947) in December 1898.  They lived on the part of the Ashley farm and later purchased the west end of Fox Island from his uncle, Fred Wallace.  Loudy and Susie then moved to Fox Island where they raised their family of eight.  Loudy was a farm and fox rancher.  Info cf. http://www.ancestraltrails.ca/
     When I worked at Maplewood Manor, Alberton, in the summers of 1981-82, Gladys (Ashley) Bonyman was a resident - she was in her 80's.  She often told us about growing up on Fox Island and recalled Mik'maq families coming back to the shores of the Island to spend the summers.  One of her vivid memories was seeing a native woman giving birth.
     See 2008 Guardian newspaper article below telling history of the seed farm which was established in 1962.
 Below: Front of house, facing Northeast.
The house is a "Fox House" style home, likely built just before WWI.
     Below: northeast view from front of house looking towards Dock River and Alberton.
Below: Southeast side of house.
 Below is a barn standing out by itself as you drive up to the property.
     Below is an article from the Guardian newspaper six years ago about the Elite Seed Farm.
- Elite seed farm topic at potato board meeting -
The Guardian. By Nancy Willis. Published on February 27, 2008
P.E.I. Potato Board holds first of four Islandwide annual meetings in Rollo Bay
ROLLO BAY - The P.E.I. Potato Board held the first of its four Islandwide annual meetings here Tuesday, where the future of the Fox Island Elite Seed Farm was of key interest.
            This industry owned seed farm has been a fundamental part of the Prince Edward Island potato world for more than half a century.
            Unlike similar organizations that are nationally funded in the United States, or provincially backed in New Brunswick, the P.E.I. Potato Board is supported completely by local Island growers.
            This year, it cost those producers $217,000 to keep it running and the board decided it was time to take it to the farmers and let them decide what to do with it.
            For decades, the elite seed farm was an international showplace for visitors, and throughout its lifetime it has ensured commercial Island growers that a local source of clean seed would be available to them.
            Now dramatic changes in the potato world, a decrease in the numbers of varieties allowed to be grown there and increased private ownership of seed worldwide have all contributed to the farm not making a profit for the last few decades.  "A variety of factors are also at play, including lower production acreage than in the past; the implication of various regulatory scenarios; and lower virus levels in seed now, which translate into less demand for early generated seed,'' said staff member Mary Kay Sonier.
            Although the farmers were presented with a variety of alternatives, no one was interested in getting rid of it. A few of the many options included maintaining the status quo; selling the property and getting out of early seed production, or continuing with nuclear seed production and trying to expand the varieties they are able to grow.
            Keeping the farm going and maintaining it as a safety net for the industry future was clearly the chosen path. All seemed to agree that the percentage of their dues that went to keeping it running was relatively small, and that keeping it was to everyone's benefit.
            "We now need to know what direction the growers would like to take because there is much to be done out there, and that will depend on the direction we choose,'' said board chairman Kevin MacIsaac.
            "Well, I don't see anyone jumping up and down to say sell her and make cottage lots,'' said Eastern Kings farmer Boyd Rose. He suggested looking at opening up the variety restrictions and lowering the price of the seed they sell so it is more competitive with commercially available product.
            This and a raft of other topics and issues will be discussed at meetings in Mill River Thursday afternoon, and Summerside Thursday night.

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Below is the map from Meacham's 1880 Atlas of PEI showing Fox Island.


  1. My grandparents, Harold and Jessie Ashley owned this home. I spent many wonderful days making memories here! Some things of note about this home.....the building that is pictured just above the barn is what we always referred to as the "old kitchen". It is my understanding that Great Grandfather Lowden and Great Grandmother Susan lived in the "old kitchen" while the big house was being built and that the building was used as a "summer kitchen" for a few years after. The house itself was built with the price of one silver fox fur! The barn that is pictured used to be where the offices of the Elite Seed Farm is today (or very close to the offices). The barn was moved out in to the field instead of being torn down. Grandfather and Grandmother sold the farm to the Elite Seed Farm in 1962. With the sale contract was an agreement that Grandfather would always have a job and that he and Grandmother could live in the house for as long as they wanted to. Grandfather took Grandmother home to that house the day they were married and they lived together in it for almost 60 years. My Grandmother never wanted to leave it. She loved her home!

    1. I have also been to this farm quite a few times as a little girl when Harold & Jessie Ashley owned the home. Have even spent the night there. Lots of yummy treats were cooked in the kitchen at the time. Memories include being with my parents while they helped with the potato planting, having to walk through some sort of disinfectant before going into the potato fields. If I remember correctly, cars also drove through disinfectant so these fabulous PEI potatoes would not be affected. I also remember that they had silver foxes at the farm.