Food supply – theme overview

Use this theme overview to support your teaching of the Food supply inquiry unit.

Victoria's diverse produce is the result of the ingenuity of producers and farmers from the earliest days.

Aboriginal people had long harvested food from natural resources and practised fish farming in the Western District.

In the 1830s, settlers introduced sheep and cattle, establishing large pastoral estates. Horticulture was a priority for settlers; within a week of arriving at Portland Bay in 1834, Edward Henty was preparing ground to plant vegetables.

The gold rush brought Chinese settlers to Central Victoria and they became the first market gardeners to supply the colony with fresh fruit and vegetables. They were soon joined by British, Irish and Italian market gardeners; today everything from artichokes to zucchini is cultivated.

Victoria produces an abundance of fine cheese, wines, olives, berries, seafood and bush foods. The Goulburn Valley is associated with the fruit industry – here SPC first established its fruit cannery in 1918 – while Gippsland's undulating landscape is known for its dairy industry. The Wimmera is the wheat belt, its landscape dotted with flour mills and storage silos, and Mildura and the Murray River Region have a history of growing citrus.

More recently, vineyards and olive groves have left their mark on regions such as the Yarra Valley and the Grampians. Harcourt is the apple capital of Victoria.

Food has also made its mark on the state's urban landscapes. Closer to the city, the Melbourne Meat Preserving Factory occupied 170 acres on the Maribyrnong River by the 1870s. The Newmarket Saleyards and City Abattoirs were located nearby.

More recently, the community has expressed concern over the rise of genetically modified foods, as well as the threats to food security that are developing due to Australia's increasing reliance on imported produce. Notions of sustainable agriculture and a desire to preserve the diversity of our food supply have led many people to take a greater interest in backyard gardening and eating locally.