VICTORIAN AGRICULTURAL SOCIETIES 1840 - 1965

The first Agricultural Society in Victoria was the Agricultural and Pastoral Society of Australia Felix, which was formed in January 1840, and held its first and last show at the Melbourne Cattle Market, at the corner of Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, on March 3, 1842.

It was formed years too early, for the resources of the young colony were not available to support such an undertaking, and it was to be another six years from the date of the ill-fated show, before any further effort was made to revive the enthusiasm of the colonists to try again.

In early 1848, a group of farmers on the Moonee Ponds Creek decided to organise ploughing competitions in an effort to improve the quality of the tillage in the colony.

Changed Name
They formed themselves into an organisation which they called the Moonee Ponds Farmers' Society.

Later in the same year they changed the name of the body to the Port Phillip Farmers' Society.

Records show that the PPFS was formed on August 10, 1848, and for the next two decades held the position of the premier, and for a while, the only body in the colony interested in the affairs of the farmer.

On October 10, 1856, a branch of the PPFS was formed at Bacchus Marsh. A year later, on October 13, 1857, the second branch was formed at Mornington, and the third at Gisborne on July 16, 1858.

Each of the three branches elected two representatives to sit on the committee of the "Central Society" as the parent body was called.

Also around the early 1850's other agricultural societies were being formed: The Victorian Agricultural Society at Heidelberg, 1850; Castlemaine and Muckleford Agricultural Association, 1854; and the Geelong and Western District Agricultural and Horticultural Society, 1855.

Through continual pressure from the PPFS the government, in 1855, made its first contribution to aid agriculture in the colony.

Handed Over
This was an amount of 500 pounds handed over to the PPFS, to supplement the prizes for the annual show and ploughing matches.

In 1856 the PPFS approached the government with a three-fold submission: To increase the amount of the grant to 6000 pounds, to establish an experimental farm; and to form a Board of Agriculture, with representatives from all agricultural societies.

It was the PPFS that called together representatives of the existing societies and received their full support for the scheme. But the government did not act until 1858 when it made available a grant to the PPFS to establish the experimental farm.

A year later, on July 20, 1859, the Board of Agriculture held its first meeting, and made grants to the following societies - Albury and Murray River, Bacchus Marsh, Ballarat, Baringhup, Burrumbeet, Lake Learmonth, Carisbrook, Geelong and Western District, Gisborne, Hamilton, Kilmore, Kyneton, Melton, Mornington, Newstead, Ovens and Murray, Port Phillip, Seymour, South Gippsland, Victoria, Villers, Heytesbury and Western District.

The Board consisted of representatives of all agricultural societies and functioned well in the first few years, but after that the country representatives lost interest and often meetings had to be cancelled for Iack of a quorum.

It appeared as though the societies only interest was the allocation of the grant funds.

In 1869 the government withdrew the grant and the Board folded up.

In 1884 the National Agricultural Society of Victoria again called together representatives of all societies with the object of forming a Federation of Agricultural Societies.

Again this body started off with enthusiasm, met monthly, and set up judging panels and discussed mutual interests, but as with the Board, apathy won the day and the organisation ceased to exist.

President of the RAS, Thomas Skene, at the annual meeting in February 1899, suggested establishing a Chamber of Agriculture, the objects being to assist, protect, encourage, and promote the general welfare of the agricultural and producing interests of the colony.

Notices were forwarded to 167 Victorian agricultural societies, and several cooperative dairy companies to attend a meeting to discuss forming the Chamber of Agriculture.

Subsequently, in March 1900, a meeting was held in the Melbourne Town Hall and elected its first council. The Chamber had a strong executive, and unlike its predecessors, was soon able to command support by its practical achievements.

The first President of the Chamber was William Thompson, who was also president of the RAS and most of the latter presidents were agricultural society representatives.

Contrary to general belief, it was not the influence of other bodies represented within the Chamber that caused the lack of interest from agricultural societies, but once again, it was apathy.

Records show that their representatives showed little interest in other than straight forward agricultural societies business, and this led later to the introduction of the Agricultural Societies Section within the Chamber.

Even so this did not work out, and for several years the late Colin Woodfull, as Director of the RAS, called meetings of country agricultural society secretaries and discussed with them matters of mutual interest.

At the 1964 annual Convention of the Chamber held in Shepparton, a resolution was carried which successfully separated the Agricultural Societies Section from the Chamber.

Later in the same year representatives from 107 societies attended a meeting called by the RAS at the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds, and the Victorian Agricultural Societies' Association was launched.

The Foundation President was Frank Ruler of Kyabram, and the RAS was appointed secretary.


The Chamber of Agriculture ceased in 1965, after a life of 65 years.

 

 
 
 

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