1906-1914: The State Farm School

The State Farm School was basic with the only tuition being from agricultural books from which students could study. Nevertheless, it was a practical course of agriculture in the use of various implements such as sowing and reaping. To ensure students were earnest the fee was raised from two guineas a year to ten pounds.

New facilities were needed to accommodate up to 40 students and so a major development took place during 1906. An elaborate plan was drawn up in April 1906 and the premises were constructed by J S Brown during 1906 and 1907. Further sites were also cleared for farm buildings to be transported from the old site and several new buildings including a combined stable and barn and a wooden silo were also built. In 1909 a new milking shed was erected. Aged horses and old machinery were replaced and mixed stock replaced with pure bred animals.

The emphasis on providing new silos and milking sheds was a result of the Departmental policy at the time.  During a visit by the Minister for Agriculture in 1905, the Minister stated that because of the current low wheat prices, many local farmers were keen to embark on dairying but were awaiting the trail of methods at the State Farm.

The opening of the Collie-Narrogin railway took place in Collie on October 25, 1907. When Premier Newton Moore and his parliamentary party travelled down the line during the celebrations they were taken out to the school with a lengthy cavalcade to show off the new state funded buildings at the farm.

Whilst the building was in progress the Manager RC Baird laid out a pine plantation and an orchard around the living quarters.  The pines created a valuable windbreak.

By 1908, the number of students fluctuated between 18 and 24 with most of the students recently arriving from Britain. All farming operations were carried out by the students under the direction of the manager, assistant manager and farm manager. The students through experience were thus taught that by keeping abreast of the seasons and continuously applying himself to the work outlined, one man can thus, during the course of the 12 months, cultivate one square mile of wheat land, half of which is every alternate year seeded and harvested, while the other portion is ploughed and cultivated and prepared for cropping in due course. Sadly Baird died in 1913.

Despite considerable advances, and although the students were keen there was pressure from the government to close the school, fortunately other uses were found and for a few years it was used as a base for migrants.  By the end of 1911, however the Directors of Education and Agriculture decided to reinstate the farm school as an educational institution.  The new institution would be called the Narrogin Farm School and was opened in March 1914.  Students 14 years and over could enrol for a two year course for an annual fee of 25 pounds, five shillings. At the end of the two years students could sit for a Junior Certificate in Agriculture. Maths, English and many agricultural subjects were studied.

Farm work would run from 7.15 am to 5.15 pm with a one and a half hour lunch break. Overall this was a comprehensive attempt to conduct a link between Primary School and the Agricultural Course at the University.


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