Getting down to the roots

One of the first tasks of the new European settlers in the Barossa region was to plant gardens. These were essential to provide food, as they were situated some distance from districts settled earlier and considering the difficulties of transport at the time, it was most important that this was done locally.

All loaded: Hugo Raethel with a load of carrots for transport to Adelaide. Courtesy Roma Bray.

All loaded: Hugo Raethel with a load of carrots for transport to Adelaide. Courtesy Roma Bray.

The tradition of home produced food has remained strong in the district. While there would have been some bartering of produce between those who grew it and those who needed it for many years there was very little produce sent out of the region, although some individuals did deliver produce to Kapunda from the northern Barossa, while others in the south western part of the district could have taken produce to Gawler.

Some producers regularly delivered to local customers freshly picked vegetables. They used horse and cart, and later motor vehicles. A limiting factor for large scale production was insufficient water supply. The main source of water for gardening were shallow wells situated in alluvial flats such as at Bethany and Langmeil.

Ready to work: Keil garden at Krondorf.

Ready to work: Keil garden at Krondorf.

This water was raised by hand pumps and windmills, but once reticulated water was connected to the area in 1916 there was the scope for increased production. It was World War II which brought about the opportunity for local gardeners to vastly increase production. Large quantities were needed to feed the troops and so carrots became the dominant vegetable crop.

In 1944 it was reported that 1500 tons of carrots was gathered in the area with a total value of £25,500. The average yield was 30 tons per acre. 

In July 1945 it was reported that the carrot crop that year was only half that of the previous year. The major cause of this was the 1944 drought, which caused the Warren reservoir to drop to a very low level.

In 1949 there was concern that carrots were being sold below the cost of production in Adelaide. Nevertheless carrot growing continued in the Barossa for years but has now almost disappeared.

The growing of gherkins for the production of dill cucumbers (Saure Gurken) was traditional in the Barossa, and is still continued by home gardeners.  Towards the end of the 1940s Adelaide companies started advertising that they wanted to purchase gherkins.

This led to many folk in the Barossa growing small plots of gherkins to supply the demand, and often the whole family would pick gherkins. This proved to be a profitable sideline for many. Besides the Adelaide buyers Barossa Canneries bought tons of gherkins from local growers in the 1950s.