Following the huge success of last years’ inaugural Tomato Festa, the event on 16th March this year is awaited with excited anticipation.
Tomato production is a major industry locally and this year marks 50 years of growing tomatoes commercially in the district. A special display will be in place at the Tomato Festa detailing the history and including photographs over the seasons to showcase the successful growth of tomato production around the Murchison area.
Tomato crop adjacent to Day’s Mill Murchison South
Historian Mr. Warwick Finlay has written this account about the local Tomato industry:
Tomato growing as a business near Murchison got under way during the 1920-30’s, when Italian farmers and share farmers began growing small areas on irrigated land to supply the Melbourne market. These farmers honed up their skills, and together with the willingness to carry out the necessary back breaking work of planting, weeding, watering in open furrows, picking into buckets, packing, then driving 130 kilometres or more to market at night. Much of this was done during the hottest time of summer.
At the out-break of WW 11 these Italian farmers were all generally well known in the district, and were permitted to continue their work, subject to them reporting to the police weekly. Prisoners from Camp 13 were organised into groups to work small areas throughout the district, including at the conspicuous corner of Hammond and Chainman’s Hill Roads, Murchison.
After the War, fruit and vegetable growers were well placed to increase their output, and together with numerous new comers, not only of Italian decent, lifted their production to the point that Rosella Foods Company of Melbourne and Sydney chose to establish a processing factory in Tatura. Growers could now set themselves up to regularly grow greater acreages, more often with some certainty.
As time went on, growers seeking fresh ground for their tomatoes came closer to Murchison, and then south as far as Nagambie. By the year 2000 large scale tomato production was mostly carried out on larger farms with greatly improved mechanisation, the latest in trickle irrigation with fertiliser additives, groups of pickers working on machines, and large bins being delivered to the on farm sorting and packing facility.
So, mark the date for the Tomato Festa – Sunday 16th of March, 11am to 5pm Stevenson Street, the main street adjacent to the Riverside Gardens in Murchison.