Early colonists in South Australia were keen to expand into the vast lands of South Australia for food and fibre production for their own use out of necessity but also for trade. Cereals, especially wheat, grew well on newly cleared land, sheep were brought in from neighbouring colonies and horticultural crops, including many varieties of fruits and vegetable and vines, were established as favourable land was cleared.
All was well until the 1870s when declining soil fertility and drought threatened these fledgling industries. The government set up a commission in 1875 to develop ways of providing technical and agricultural education for the colonists. The commission recommended the formation of a Department of Agriculture, but this was not acted upon until the turn of the century. In the meantime a Professor of Agriculture was appointed and Roseworthy Agricultural College opened its doors in 1885.
Droughts in 1885 and 1886 accelerated the formation of an Agricultural Bureau system controlled by a Central Bureau. This bureau became the forerunner of the Department of Agriculture.
This site recounts the roles played by the Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Bureaus, learning institutions, agricultural producers and other innovators, and other government agencies through historical documents, manuscripts, personal accounts and transcripts in the development of the agricultural industries and the role of government in South Australia through to the present day.
In the early 2000s work commenced on capturing this history, sorting through many thousands of photographic images, conducting oral histories and presenting them in a structured way via this website. A small Working Group was initially established and a Steering Committee provided strategic direction and support.
Many people have contributed information to the site so far and we would like to thank those involved as well as encourage new users of the site to make a contribution. The key contributors have been Dr John Radcliffe, Arthur Tideman, Trevor Roberts, Barry Windle, Roger Wickes, Barry Philp, Tricia Fraser, Don Plowman, Phil Cole, Kevin Gogler, Rita Novia, Mark Barber, Bill Giles, Paul Moran, Neil Collins, Paul Heap and Bernie O’Neil.
The substantial work of volunteers Arthur Tideman, Trevor Roberts and Tricia Fraser in assembling and describing the large collection of photographs and related historical documents is recognised.
The contribution made by historian, Bernie O’Neil, in collecting much of the historical material used in this website and undertaking the oral histories.
The material contained within this website has been contributed by many volunteers, most former Department members. There are over 70 topic contributors and many more who have provided material for, and reviewed documents prepared. Their valuable contribution is acknowledged.