‘It’s an institution’: Fredericton’s Neill farm being developed carefully, slowly

FREDERICTON – A fourth generation farm that sits in the middle of Fredericton’s northside is slowly being developed – but the community says its legend remains.

Brothers Ronald and Albert Neill mark the fourth generation at Devon Holsteins – and the last. The last herd of cattle left in May of 2011.

But the barns and 173-year-old farm house still stand tall, turning heads as you drive along MacLaren Ave. It’s been a staple for the community, where many teenagers have worked and schools took students on field trips.

“People who have grown up will come back and say, ‘Oh I used to slide on Neill’s hill,'” said Lorraine Neill, Ronald’s wife.

Two generations of the farm, Albert and his father Doug, have been inducted into the Atlantic Agriculture Hall of Fame.

The Neill’s cattle barn. Kevin Godwin/Global News. Kevin Godwin/Global News

The Neill’s land once spanned over 100 acres of the city. Now, the land is being sold in phases and development is building around them.

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It’s a beautiful old farm in the middle of a city. The Neill’s say they understand the future has different plans for the land.

“Because I know I’m going to go before too long,” Ronald Neill said. “You just take it as it comes, that’s all.”

A brand new school – École Les Éclaireurs – sits in their backyard. And a subdivision is growing just outside their window.

“You just have to change with the times. And hopefully we have,” Lorraine Neill said.

The city has been working with private developers on the plan for the land.

Marcello Battilana, Fredericton’s Manager of Planning and Development, says they know and understand the legend that is the Neill farm, and are being careful with its development.

“This development has so much history attached to it. It’s almost an institution in and of itself,” he said.

The plan is to make the area a dense, diverse and walkable community with a variety of housing options. There are now three schools in the neighbourhood which has made it attractive for young families.

Kevin Godwin/Global News. Kevin Godwin/Global News

“What’s better than having a school as a centre focus of your community where you can now have kids – not on buses – walking to school,” Battilana said.

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But the Neills maintain: no one will be taking down the house or the barns while they’re still around.

Ron Neill says he’s proud of the work he and his brother have done.

“I wouldn’t change anything. I’d do it all again if I could,” he said.

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