The development of practical agriculture at James Ruse
Initially the School's practical agriculture was conducted on 1/4 hectare of land, the present site of the new Assembly Hall. At this time the only machinery available was a 5 h.p. junior rotary hoe. There were no farm animals.
At this stage no farm hands had been appointed and practical agriculture consisted of growing vegetable crops on this 1/4 hectare and general clearing operations on the present farm site. The original pupils worked very hard indeed to find the soil beneath large areas of briar, blackberries, sally wattle, and mountains of rubbish and old poultry sheds. An interesting find was 35 Early Watts peach trees hidden among enormous weeds. These same trees were to provide the nucleus of the orchard. The old stables provided the only lock-up space for fertilizer, seed, fuel, hand tools and machinery.
Gradually improvements came. A farm hand was appointed and about the same time the school acquired a Massey-Ferguson Deluxe 35 tractor and a range of implements. After 3 hectares of land were fenced with cyclone chain wire fencing and subdivision fences erected, it was possible to introduce livestock. Various breeds of dairy cattle were established together with the Romney Marsh stud, the original flock coming from Oberon. An apiary was begun, and a deep litter, intensive type poultry unit was established and a one stand shearing shed and yards enabled closer control of the sheep flock.
The school farm now comprises 5 hectares of land, of which 2 hectares are rented from the Electricity Commission. This area is used by the Agriculture staff to demonstrate the principles of agricultural production through the use of field and laboratory trials and experiments, observations, and demonstrations of livestock husbandry and machinery.
In 1969 the farm area was increased by the acquisition of 2 hectares of land comprising a timber mill, orchard and dam. This area was cleared, fenced and a spray irrigation system installed to supply water for pasture areas used for stock grazing, as well as water for the school oval.
The farm's livestock includes a Romney Marsh stud of 1 ram and 6 ewes, 6 Border Leicester cross Merino ewes, a Dorset Horn ram for lamb carcase production, and 8 young crossbreds. There are also 5 dairy breed cows, an Aberdeen Angus heifer, 2 ponies, and poultry consisting of egg-laying and broiler types, and an apiary.
Sheep yards have been constructed and a weighing scale bought to enable weight gain of lambs and pregnant ewes to be measured. Cattle yards have been built and a cattle crush installed which enables routine operations such as artificial insemination, vaccination, drenching and dehorning to be carried out safely.
All of the grazing area has been sod sown with ryegrass and subterranean clover. This receives annual applications of appropriate fertilizer to promote active growth from natural summer growing species (kikuyu and paspalum) and introduced winter growing species (ryegrass and subterranean clover); about 2 hectares of this grazing area can be irrigated either from the dam or mains supply.
The glasshouse has been reconstructed in the farm area near the Practical Agriculture Laboratory. It was proposed to establish pasture trials of temperate and tropical summer and winter growing cultivars. Use of the glasshouse will ensure the survival of the tropical species over the winter months.
The orchard is also being renovated. New trees have been planted to enable continued use of the orchard as a teaching area.
Plant production trials are carried out to show students the general principles involved. Oats have been planted at different densities and sulphate of ammonia applied at varying rates to determine optimum seeding and fertilizer rates for dry matter yields. Different varieties of sunflowers have been planted to show the effect of day length and yields. Sorghum and maize have been used to show hybridization in plants.
The farm has also been used to host visitors from Primary and Infants' Schools over the last ten years. Students from junior forms act as guides for conducted tours of the farm environment. This develops leadership qualities in these students, who take great pride in showing off their farm to the young visitors, for many of whom it is their first meeting with farm animals, crops and machinery associated with Agriculture.
From the 1978 School Magazine