Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 32 > Page 1 - With Alex John Boudreau, Cheticamp Island

Page 1 - With Alex John Boudreau, Cheticamp Island

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1982/8/1 (1914 reads)
 

With Alex John Boudreau, Cheticamp Island (Alex John, you were appointed agricultur? al representative for Inverness County right out of college?) Right. I graduated from Laval in May 1933. I was appointed ag? ricultural rep on the 1st of January, 1934. I had my office in Cheticamp, and I cov? ered North Inverness. (What was expected of you?) Well, the job of agricultural rep was actually to help the small farmers, be? cause that's all we had here--we didn't have any large farms--it was all small, and mostly part-time--fishermen-farmers. And our job was to try to help them eke out a living, whatever way we could help. So we tried to help them with their actual agricultural problems. For example, improv? ing their seed grains and seed potatoes. In the spring, importing some day-old chicks. And telling them what kind of fer? tilizer to use--the actual agricultural problems. But most of my work was involved in economics, in social-economic problems. I have to tell you that during my course in agriculture, I specialized in rural ec? onomics. That's why, when I was appointed, I immediately started working with St. F. X. (St. Francis Xavier University in Anti? gonish) , the Extension Department, which had started its operations only a few years before. And I started organizing co? operatives. I was instrumental in organiz? ing the Cheticamp Credit Union, the Grand Etang Credit Union, the cooperative store, and I helped organize the fishermen here in Cheticamp--while I was agricultural rep. Because you couldn't separate fishermen and farmers. If you wanted to improve their lot economically, you had to deal with both the farming problems and the fishing problems. until they started organizing their own co? operatives and their own marketing system-- they were completely dependent on the com? panies that bought fish. The major company in this area was Robin Jones. But there were others. Most of the fishing companies at the time advanced the necessary funds to the fishermen to provide them with nets and lines and bait. And in the case of Rob? in Jones, provided most of their liveli? hood, their domestic needs during the win? ter months. Food. And when spring came, all their production for the summer was al? ready controlled in advance, and committed to the company. (So they weren't really free to choose who they'd sell their fish to?) No, in most cases they weren't. (Who set the price?) The companies. No ques? tions asked. (There was no bargaining?) No, absolutely not. Their problem was a problem of marketing and selling their fish. Because they were- (But you told me before that it would be wrong to consider this system, which began here in the 18th century, as slavery.) Right. It's rough. It was harsh, it was rough. But the Jersey Islanders (Charles Robin, founder of Robin Jones, was a Jer- seyman), as far as I know, were Huguenots-- former French people. (See "A Statement Halfway Through" in Issue 30 of Cape Bret? on's Magazine.) They had had experience with the French feudal system--you know, with the lords and their manor and their semi-slaves on the farms--they knew that experience. Now obviously, they were set- CAPE BRETON'S MAGAZINE, NUMBER THIRTY-TWO WRECK COVE, CAPE BRETON, NOVA SCOTIA SECOND CLASS MAIL -- REGISTRATION NUMBER 3014 (1)
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