Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Virginia's market gardens

From the mid 1950’s onwards European migrants came to the district to establish a new market gardening centre to serve Adelaide.  Prior to the Second World War, the city’s fresh vegetable needs were supplied by the areas around Campbelltown and Marion, but the sudden growth of Adelaide, particularly during the 1950s meant that much of the land was claimed for housing development.  In the search for a new area free from the threat of suburban encroachment and suitable for year round cultivation, many market gardening families came to Virginia where some horticulture already occurred on the banks of the Gawler River. 
 
 
The district offered a number of advantages including flat land, permitting easy cultivation and the erection of glasshouses, light sandy topsoil that could be readily worked, a mild climate with limited frost, and a plentiful supply of underground water.  Such was the attraction to the area that it not only drew experienced market gardeners but also a large number of new migrants form Central and Southern Europe who entered into the business in the 1950s and 1960s.  In addition, work was available in the nearby factories at Elizabeth and Salisbury thus enabling new settlers to earn a wage while establishing their market gardens.
 
The development of the Virginia area as Adelaide’s leading market gardening centre occurred rapidly. By 1961 over 450 acres in the council were being cultivated for horticultural produce, approximately half of which were potatoes. Development continued during the next decade, and by the mid-1970s over 2500 acres were devoted to the production of vegetables in the Munno Para council area – the vast majority of this land being located in the Virginia-Angle Vale district.
 
A wide range of crops is grown, including potatoes, onions, carrots, lettuces, cauliflowers, cabbages and celery. The main glasshouse crop until recent years has been tomatoes which were sent to interstate markets in Melbourne and Sydney.

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