Wool Wheat and Meat
The role of working the land in the KellyGang story
The from the arrival of the first Europeans in the area in the late 1830's until the late 1870's there had been nothing but change. The first change came to the Aboriginal community with the arrival of white men. With the end of the arrival convicts in about 1840 and a depression, the expansion in the number of squatting runs slowed. The next major change was in the 1850s with the discovery of gold. This reduced the number of shepperds working on the squatting runs and increased the need for meat rather than wool. In the 1860's many former gold miners and others were looking for land. Many of the squatting runs had selections cut out, but in a lot of cases the squatters managed to arrange things to suit their interests.
The Argus provided a series of articles on the economics of being a selector and farming in North Eastern Victoria. These articles give a good view of the struggle faced and the pressures on families like the Kellys. (Argus19/4/80) (Aragus21/6/80)
There was a Royal Commission to review the whole system of selection and land ownership (Argus6/3/79)
There was a machine demonstration. Crops need to be harvested. (Argus4/12/79)
Topics covered include
One of the first crops to be grown was wheat. In the early years wheat was in short supply and it had to be imported into Victoria for many years. Wheat was grown around Oxley and along the River Murray. Flour mills were set up at Wahgunyah and Yackandandah.
Later the prices dropped and Victoria became an exporter. The drop in price largely affected the small selectors.
Wheat production dropped when rust became a major problem. (Argus19/4/80)
The cost of wheat production, ploughing, harvest, cartage etc. (Argus19/4/80)
There was a great difference between farmers who could plough and harvest their own crop and those who had to buy in the services of a threshing machine (Argus21/6/80)
Farmers could not store their grain and so they sold it to merchants as soon as it was harvested. They had little chance to capture the value in their product.
As an example of the size of this industry in the wheat industry in the area Wangaratta had 4 flour mills.
The railway ment that the crop could be transported to the markets in the city at a reasonable price.
Oats attracted a similar price to that payable for wheat.
Hops and Tobacco
Where there was plenty of water with good soil Hops and Tobacco was grown. See (Argus13/9/83)
Fruit and Vegetables
Most properties and selectors had their own vegetable gardens and orchards. Some ex chinese miners operated vegatable gardens on the river flats and sold their produce to local shops.
Sheep were a good business but they required a large area and good fences. It was not a business for selectors (T&C20/8/1870) (Argust19/4/80) (Argus21/6/80) (Argus21/6/80) (Ensign19/9/1873) prices (Alexandra22/11/1873)
Prosecution for moving scabby sheep (Ensign24/10/1873)