Farming in Kangaroo Ground
The earliest settlers in the Nillumbik area were the Wurundjeri people who lived with native species including wallabies, kangaroos, other native animals and native grasses of which these animals and remnant native bushes and grasses can be found on roadside verges and in the cemetery.
Just beyond Melbourne’s north-eastern outskirts, Kangaroo Ground occupies a small oasis of rich soil in a generally less fertile region. Its virtues, well known to Aboriginal people were soon discovered by European settlers. The first farmers were all Scottish emigrants who worked the land, grew pasture, crops and ran sheep and some cattle. It now has few full time farmers, but a range of part-timers as well as many hobby farmers, vine yards, horse agistment and lifestyle residents, who enjoy the proximity of green paddocks and rural vistas.
Early farming accompanied mining activities and grew with the decline in the gold mining.
Farming was often based on a mixture of enterprises involving one or more of the following:
Dairying, Pigs, Cattle Sheep mainly for fat lambs and fine wool ,Pip and stone fruit and Vegetables for sale to the Melbourne community.
Early development in the Kangaroo Ground area included vegetables and vines on the rich basalt soil that caps ‘Garden Hill’ but were difficult to sustain partly due to lack of water.
THE STEVENSON VINE 1998
In Kangaroo Ground, at a property on the Yarra Glen Rd, Joseph Stevenson in the 1870s planted the district’s first vineyard, some being shiraz. Years later his son, Robert Stevenson managed the vineyard and wine production. From it, wine was supplied to Government House and some also shipped to England.
When the government offered a bounty for a wine pull, the Stevenson’s took advantage of this cash payment, as the ‘land boom’ was breaking and they seem to have been astute enough to see the advantage of this cash input into their farms.
A few vines, however were left, one of these grew near the house and cuttings were taken from this original Stevenson Vine – some by descendants and one by the licensee of the Lower Plenty Hotel, where it flourished. Further cuttings were planted in Greensborough and in 1997 cuttings were taken from there, to be planted at the nursery at Burnley Horticultural College and the remaining vine was dug up before the developer took over, and it was planted back in Kangaroo Ground at the Andrew Ross Museum.
Stevenson’s Grapes outside the Andrew Ross Museum