SAV­ING THE FARM (ROUND 1): John Young’s dairy

A teach­ing and re­search farm was a cen­tral fo­cus of UBC in the early years. John Young was hired to help build one from scratch, start­ing with his fine herd of Ayr­shire cat­tle.

Trek Magazine - - Message From The President - BY CHRIS PETTY, MFA’86

When John and Mary Young and their six chil­dren boarded a ship in Glas­gow, Scot­land, to move to UBC’s farm in Au­gust 1929, they couldn’t have known what they were get­ting into. With 24 cows (and one bull) in tow, John Young was charged with es­tab­lish­ing and main­tain­ing a dairy herd for the univer­sity’s Fac­ulty of Agriculture. There were al­ready Jer­sey cows at the site, but Young and his herd of cat­tle were em­ployed to ramp up the fac­ulty’s dairy cat­tle re­search pro­gram.

He could be for­given for tak­ing a flyer on the op­por­tu­nity half a world away. As the ten­ant op­er­a­tor of his fam­ily farm, “Wa­ter­side Mains,” in Dum­friesshire county, he had nursed his herd through a se­vere bout of bru­cel­losis and was faced with a crip­pling rise in the cost of his farm’s lease. When he was ap­proached by a kindly gen­tle­man from a univer­sity in the colonies, he saw the of­fer as some­thing he couldn’t refuse.

Young (and his cat­tle and fam­ily) were re­cruited by UBC pro­fes­sor H. M. King, who was dis­patched to Scot­land by the univer­sity to find a herd of Ayr­shire cat­tle – along with their herds­man – to pop­u­late the dairy farm. A cer­tain Cap­tain J.C. Dun-Wa­ters, a fel­low Scot and owner of the Glas­gow Her­ald news­pa­per, op­er­ated a farm in Fin­try, BC (across the lake from Kelowna). He was in­ter­ested in help­ing de­velop a pow­er­ful Fac­ulty of Agriculture at the fledg­ling univer­sity, and saw a healthy dairy farm as key to that suc­cess. In fact, one of the es­sen­tial el­e­ments in se­lect­ing the Point Grey site in 1911 was its abil­ity to sup­port a teach­ing and re­search farm as the cen­tral fo­cus of the univer­sity. Dun-Wa­ters was con­vinced that the Ayr­shire was the only breed of cat­tle worth us­ing at a teach­ing farm, and of­fered to help fund the pur­chase and trans­port of a herd to UBC.

In June 1929, Young et al set sail and ar­rived 10 sea-sick days later in Que­bec City. (His youngest son, Archie, now 87, re­mem­bers be­ing the only mem­ber of the fam­ily who didn’t spend most of the trip in the la­trine.) Af­ter six weeks of quar­an­tine the cat­tle were put into rail­cars and trained to Van­cou­ver where they ar­rived on Au­gust 10 in the mid­dle of the Cana­dian Pacific Ex­hi­bi­tion (now the PNE). Loaded onto floats and pre­ceded by a pipe band, the el­e­gant, long-horned stock was pa­raded through the ex­hi­bi­tion and Van­cou­ver’s down­town be­fore be­ing hauled up to Point Grey and their new lives as “the best ex­am­ples of the breed ever seen in this part of the world,” ac­cord­ing to a news­pa­per report.

Loaded onto floats and pre­ceded by a pipe band, the el­e­gant, long-horned stock was pa­raded through the ex­hi­bi­tion and Van­cou­ver’s down­town be­fore be­ing hauled up to Point Grey and their new lives as “the best ex­am­ples of the breed ever seen in this part of the world.”

But the UBC cam­pus was still in its in­fancy. Sod had only re­cently been bro­ken at the farm site – around the old “B” park­ing lot, which is now a res­i­den­tial district – and the new barn hadn’t been fully pre­pared for a large-scale dairy op­er­a­tion. Van­cou­ver was still a rugged fron­tier town with lim­ited re­sources, and the down­town was a rough, hour-long tram ride away. John, Mary and their six chil­dren had to live in a two bed­room apart­ment over a store at the edge of cam­pus for the first two years. The gen­tle nu­ances of life on a farm just out­side the town of Thornhill in Dum­friesshire, Scot­land, must have seemed like a misty dream.

But the Youngs were hearty Scots, used to the va­garies of farm­ing life, and took to their new world with de­ter­mi­na­tion and high en­ergy. Mary Young took a job teach­ing kinder­garten, English and pi­ano in Ja­pan­town, and be­came a cham­pion of Ja­panese rights dur­ing the in­tern­ments of World War II.

John Young be­gan the ar­du­ous process of build­ing the farm from scratch while help­ing de­velop pro­grams to teach Ag­gie stu­dents the art of rais­ing dairy cat­tle. Us­ing his years of an­i­mal hus­bandry ex­pe­ri­ence, he be­gan to breed a larger Ayr­shire herd. His spec­tac­u­lar stock in­cluded three of the most fa­mous Ayr­shires in the coun­try: “Rain­ton Ros­alind V” had such amaz­ing milk pro­duc­tion that she re­quired milk­ing four times a day and won many pro­vin­cial and na­tional awards, in­clud­ing the Grand Cham­pion Fe­male in 1934 for the high­est daily, monthly and yearly milk yields in Canada. “Ard­gowan Glad­ness II” was con­sis­tently awarded for the high but­ter­fat con­tent of her milk and “Lochinch Lassie,” as well as be­ing an ex­cel­lent milker, was a first rate breeder. She bore the fa­mous bull “Ubyssey White Cock­ade” that sired some of the later stock’s most suc­cess­ful milk­ing cows. These three cows were univer­sity stars in the Thir­ties.

In those days, man­ag­ing a herd in­volved more than milk­ing, feed­ing and breed­ing. Young and his fam­ily grew and har­vested crops of hay, dealt with dis­ease and in­jury to the an­i­mals, raised pigs and grew veg­eta­bles. For­tu­nately, he was able to use agriculture stu­dents and em­ploy a small staff to work on the farm, but John and his fam­ily did the bulk of the work. Son Archie has fond mem­o­ries of bring­ing in the wheat, work­ing with the horse team and pre­par­ing prize cows for ex­hi­bi­tion shows. All the hard work seemed to be pay­ing off. Young was even able, af­ter two years, to move his fam­ily into a four-bed­room house ad­ja­cent to the farm.

The Great De­pres­sion that started in 1929 be­gan to have a se­ri­ous im­pact on Bri­tish Columbia by 1931. Pro­vin­cial bud­gets were slashed, and money ear­marked for the new univer­sity was se­verely cur­tailed. If not for a de­ter­mined cam­paign by stu­dents and fac­ulty, UBC it­self would have been shut­tered. As it was, bud­gets for the fac­ul­ties were cut dra­mat­i­cally, and the farm, it was de­cided, would be closed down, em­ploy­ees let go and the stock sold. But John Young had a dif­fer­ent idea. He worked a deal with the univer­sity where he and his fam­ily would run the farm as a com­mer­cial dairy, sup­ply­ing prod­ucts to res­i­dents in the Univer­sity En­dow­ment Lands area as a way of mak­ing the en­ter­prise self-sup­port­ing. The univer­sity agreed, though ad­min­is­tra­tors were du­bi­ous, and the UBC Dairy was born.

These were the days be­fore au­to­ma­tion, an­tibi­otics and wide-spread pas­teur­iza­tion, which meant that long hours and hard work were the only path­ways to suc­cess. John Jr. was re­quired to quit school to help man­age the dairy, and his broth­ers, Dave, Alas­tair and Archie, and sis­ters Grace and Iso­bel de­voted them­selves to the ar­du­ous tasks of daily hand-milk­ing and de­liv­ery. In later years, Jean and An­drew, two new “bairns” added in the early ’30s, also pitched in. Archie re­ceived spe­cial dis­pen­sa­tion from a lo­cal con­sta­ble to drive the milk truck in the neigh­bour­hood though he was only 14. But a real hard­ship be­fell the Youngs when John Jr. died in 1935 of a rup­tured ap­pen­dix. He had been his fa­ther’s right-hand man since the fam­ily left Scot­land, and his loss was keenly felt by the whole fam­ily.

In spite of it all, the fam­ily kept its strength and fo­cus and main­tained an ef­fi­cient, well-run farm that sup­ported the fac­ulty’s mis­sion to ad­vance re­search into cat­tle man­age­ment, dairy pro­duc­tion and an­i­mal hus­bandry. The com­mer­cial as­pect of the dairy, dur­ing these eco­nom­i­cally bleak days, was a rare bright spot in UBC op­er­a­tions. As well, Young’s ac­u­men in busi­ness and an­i­mal hus­bandry turned the 24 cows and one bull into one of the finest Ayr­shire herds in Canada.

As the Thir­ties wore on, the univer­sity’s fi­nances eased enough to en­able it to gen­er­ate some fund­ing for the farm, and Young was able to ac­quire new equip­ment, in­clud­ing a pas­teur­izer, which made the home de­liv­ery sched­ule a lit­tle less hec­tic. But the war be­gan in the late 1930s, and sons Dave and Alas­tair en­listed in the Air Force. To the fam­ily’s great anguish, Alas­tair was shot down in March 1944. Dave re­turned to the farm af­ter the war and at­tended UBC, earn­ing a BA in Agriculture in 1947. Younger brother Archie grad­u­ated the same year in Sci­ence.

By 1951, af­ter 22 years of heroic work and ded­i­ca­tion, Young de­cided it was time to re­tire. With Dave work­ing in Ottawa with the fed­eral govern­ment, and two of his other chil­dren study­ing at UBC, there was no one to take over the farm. Dairy­land, then be­com­ing one of the dom­i­nant agri-busi­nesses in the prov­ince, took over the farm’s de­liv­ery busi­ness, and the farm it­self even­tu­ally di­vested it­self of its live­stock. But John Young’s legacy – hard work, de­ter­mi­na­tion, a sense of con­stant im­prove­ment and ad­vance­ment – was to es­tab­lish a strong foun­da­tion for dairy cat­tle re­search at UBC and the de­vel­op­ment of the Dairy Ed­u­ca­tion and Re­search Cen­tre in 1996. His spirit has be­come a hall­mark of the univer­sity and the prime in­her­i­tance of the Young fam­ily.

Thanks to John Young’s grand­son, Don Young, BSc’89, MD’94, for his biog­ra­phy, For All Thy

Kith ’n Kine, and to Archie Young, BA’47(Sci­ence), for his in­sights.

The John and Mary Young schol­ar­ship was es­tab­lished in the Fac­ulty of Land and Food Sys­tems (the former Fac­ulty of Agriculture) to sup­port a grad stu­dent in­ter­ested in dairy cat­tle re­search. For more in­for­ma­tion on contributing to the schol­ar­ship’s en­dow­ment, please con­tact Niki Glen­ning at 604 822 8910 or niki.glen­ning@ubc.ca.

The cat­tle on the dock in Que­bec City af­ter their trans-At­lantic jour­ney. The small boy on the far right is Alis­tair Young, wear­ing clothes bought spe­cially for the trip.

A cer­tifi­cate com­mem­o­ratin g the gift or the Ayr­shire cat­tle

to UBC.

The most fa­mous of the orig­i­nal Ayr­shire herd. (L-R): Ard­gowan Glad­ness 2, Lochinch Lassie and Rain­ton Ros­alind V. John Young is hold­ing Ros­alind’s tether and son John is hold­ing Glad­ness. John and Mary Young in their Sun­day best. Photo cour­tesy Don­ald Young (grand­son).

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