William Cecil Cairns Inducted into Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame

William Cecil Cairns
Prince Edward Island

William Cairns has a history of service and leadership to the agriculture industry on Prince Edward Island. He was raised on the family farm in Lower Freetown and attended Lower Freetown school. After he completed Grade 10, William attended the Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown from 1943 to 1946. He finished at the top of his class each year. He was encouraged to enter the medical field but the call of the farm was too strong and he returned home.

Once farming, he became active in the farm organizations that existed at the time. He first joined the PEI Junior Farmers organization and was elected as the second president in the organization’s history. Through the Junior Farmers he became active in the PEI Federation of Agriculture, which, at the time, was a fledgling organization. He sat on the board of the Junior Farmers and the PEI Federation of Agriculture for many years, eventually becoming the first vice president of the Federation.

William also sat on the Board of the Dunk River Dairy Company, one of a number of small dairies that were in operation at the time. In the early 50s, William became heavily involved in discussions to set up a company to join these small dairies into Amalgamated Dairies Limited in 1952. William Cairns is the lone surviving member to have attended the meeting that pushed the formation ahead. In 2011, he received a plaque from ADL for his years of service to the company.

Nuffield Canada was established as an organization that is dedicated to fostering agriculture leadership and personal development through international study. In 1952, William Cairns became the first Prince Edward Islander to be accepted as a Nuffield Scholar. Only three Canadian scholars preceded him. His study of agriculture production systems and policy took him to Great Britain and Ireland as well as parts of Europe. His report on agriculture systems in Europe was shared with agriculture organizations on PEI and all over Canada and fostered many interesting discussions regarding agriculture policy.

William’s high achievements and scholarly aspirations led him to be involved in other agricultural studies. He was a pioneer in recommending and adopting innovations in the dairy industry. These included the need for updating ventilation systems, modernizing milking parlours, enhancing record keeping practices and utilizing artificial insemination to improve dairy genetics. William understood the importance of maintaining accurate production records and was a key proponent of the development of the milk recording system in PEI.

William and his son James continue to operate Willscott Farm Ltd. His son and daughter-in-law Janet are now the prime operators and 7th generation of Cairns to run the farm, which has been in the family since 1852.

Nominated by the Prince Edward Island Federation of Agriculture and the Dairy Farmers of PEI for his lifelong dedicated to agriculture, his family and community, William Cecil Cairns is a worthy inductee into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Induction Date: 2011