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Agricultural timeline

Before 1788 The locality was the home of Aboriginal people who had lived here since the Dreamtime – the Gundungarra to the west and south, the Dharawal to the south and east, and the Dharuk to the north.

1788 Two bulls and five cows from the First Fleet escaped from the first settlement in Sydney.

1795 A mob of wild cattle, the offspring of those that escaped were discovered in this locality and it became known as the Cowpastures.

1805 John Macarthur was granted 5,000 acres of land at the Cowpastures to develop the wool industry. He imported Spanish Merino sheep from the Royal flock in England.

1808 John Macarthur exported wool to England and it became the mainstay of his estates. Elizabeth Macarthur managed the sheep flocks from the following year until 1817 while John was exiled in England for his role in the Rum Rebellion.

1820 First vineyard planted, river flats cleared to grow wheat and other crops. As well as sheep, they ran cattle and pigs and had a dairy to provide milk and butter for the household and estate workers.

1830s William Macarthur imported the first Camellias into Australia, part of his expanding horticultural enterprises at Camden Park. The estate exported the first Australian brandy. The Macarthur estate at Camden reached its maximum size of over 27,000 acres in 1837.

1840s Camden Park made butter and cheese at its dairy for sale in Sydney.

1850s Camden Park sold its registered Merino flock and ceased to run sheep. Wheat and other crops were now the main products of the estate, along with butter, cheese, wine and horticulture.

1860s The fungal disease known as ‘rust’ destroyed wheat crops and much less was grown. Corn continued to be important. The railway reached Menangle in 1863, providing easy access to the growing Sydney market.

1880s The vine pest Phylloxera devastated the vineyards and production ceased. Camden Park sold fresh milk daily in Sydney. The milk was sent by rail from Menangle. It also continued to sell butter and cheese in Sydney.

1920s Camden Park established the first of its ‘model’ dairies. They were modern dairies that emphasised hygiene and clean milk. It established the Camden Vale Milk Company and sent its pasteurised milk by rail to Sydney for sale. Camden Park’s dairy herds were certified tuberculosis-free, the first in NSW. Camden Vale Milk Co. merged with Dairy Farmers in 1929 but still sold milk under its own brand.

1950s The rotolactor was completed at Menangle in 1952. It was the brainchild of Edward Macarthur Onslow who had seen one in operation in America. 900 cows were milked each day on the rotolactor and up to 2,000 people visited each week to see it in action.

1960s Camden Park Estate was the largest dairy farm in Australia. It milked about 900 cows on the rotolactor and another 600 at its model dairies.

1970s In 1973 Camden Park Estate Ltd. Was sold to an investment company, Talga. About 1,000 acres of the original estate remained with the family around Camden Park House.

1980s In 1984 the NSW Government purchased 1,600 hectares of Camden Park Estate. The Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute was established with modern biosecurity laboratories on the land. The NSW Government also created Belgenny Farm Agricultural Heritage Centre Trust to manage the portion which contains the heritage buildings now known as Belgenny Farm.