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  • Writer's pictureKinglake Historical Society

Changing Scenery

Scenery along the Kinglake ridge has changed markedly over the years since the first settlers set up farms in the area.  Many current residents and visitors to the district would perhaps hardly believe what the view along the main road would have been 100 years ago in the 1920s.
Either side of the main road at that time, there would have been orchards of fruit trees and fields with rows of berries, mainly raspberries. Kinglake then had an established reputation for producing arguably the best raspberries in Victoria, and the Kinglake orchards and nurseries produced a range of fruit, especially apples and plums, and also fruit tree seedlings that found ready sale and good prices in the city markets.
One problem faced by local berry-growers was the difficulty of getting soft fruits to market in good condition, transported as they were by horse-drawn vehicles over rough roads. So, in 1900, the Kinglake Fruit-Growers Association was formed with a membership of 47 local growers and they soon decided to form a company and build a fruit pulping factory where raspberries and plums could be ‘cooked’ to the first stage of jam-making.  The fruit pulp was sealed in tin cans and could be transported without damage to the Australasian Jam Company and a good price returned to the KFGA members. 
The pulping factory was located on the block opposite the Kinglake Central School and the venture was so successful that Leggos of Bendigo decided to take over from the locals, establishing their first factory in 1910 at ‘Mountain Home’ on the Mount Slide road and the second in 1915 on a property near the present Frank Thomson Reserve.

Unfortunately, by 1920, other problems for the Kinglake fruit growers included thrip insects, which sucked the juice from the fruit, flowers and leaves, sometimes destroying the whole crop, and competition from raspberry growers on the north coast of Tasmania, whose transport costs to the Melbourne market were lower than those of the Kinglake growers, causing prices to fall so that profits for Kinglake growers were reduced.
A solution to this problem was a change from fruit and berries to potatoes.  Kinglake had several advantages for successful potato-growing – a cool climate; red friable loam soil, easy to work and reasonably fertile; and the rainfall average was 46 inches per year. In addition, Kinglake was close to the Melbourne market, the main road through Whittlesea was sealed in 1929, and horse-drawn carts and wagons had been replaced by motor trucks.
As a result, the 1930s saw a fairly rapid change in the scenery along the main Kinglake road as the view was now of paddocks with rows and rows of potato plants, especially attractive when in flower.
In the 1940s, the Kinglake Potato Growers Association was formed with up to 40 members, farming large or small acreages, and the group sent 5 delegates to the Victorian Primary Producers Committee to represent Kinglake interests especially with regard to marketing regulations.

By 1947, Kinglake was one of Victoria’s best-known potato-growing districts and had been found to be especially suitable for the production of high-quality seed potatoes, certified under the strict inspection system of the Department of Agriculture.
Now times have changed and so has the scenery along the main road, but the fruit-growing and potato eras are each an important part of Kinglake’s history.

Deidre Hawkins

Kinglake Historical Society

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