It’s the industry that is the Riverina’s current largest employer and second largest exporter.
The agriculture industry exported $2.3 billion and made up 13 per cent of the workforce in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
However, without a rich history of leaders in the industry, it would not be the major player it is today.
A key component has been the saleyards, with the first established in 1930s on Travers Street.
As supply and demand increased, it became a headquarter for many in the region, including Coolamon, Ganmain and Henty
And so it required a larger site.
Plans to relocate to the Bomen site began in the late 1950s and was finally realised in 1979 when the new $3.4 million centre, renamed to Wagga Livestock Marketing Centre, had its first sale.
In 1997, it became the largest sheep selling centre in the state with nearly 1.5 million sheep sold per annum.
It also became the second largest cattle (behind Dubbo) with 153,300 cattle sold every year.
Wagga City Council says the value of livestock sold through the LMC was $387 million in 2015, which included more than 222,000 cattle and 1.85 million sheep.
The Riverina has also grown to be one of the most important seed-stock suppliers for the sheep and cattle industry.
It is home to successful cattle and sheep studs, which includes Injemira Hereford Stud at Book Book, Armdale Poll Dorsets at Marrar and Barwon Poll Dorsets at Yerong Creek.
The Riverina is also home to a strong dairy industry, with Riverina Fresh’s establishment dating back to 1920.
Prior to that, the Murrumbidgee Co-Operative Dairy Company was formed in 1890 and opened in 1895.
It came after a coalition of dairymen met and agreed that better returns could be secured from a cooperative company.
The company also began producing ice in 1922 and butter in 1923.
As well, Tumut once homed more than 300 dairies-supplying products to the local butter factory, according to Museum Riverina.
The town now has only two dairies.
The region is also one of the biggest hubs for training generations of agricultural professionals, courtesy of educational institutions over the years, including Charles Sturt University.
CSU wasn’t the first, however, as agriculture education and scientific farming began after the Second World War after their importance became more wide known.
Research into soil was established when NSW Soil Conservation and Research Station was opened in Wagga in 1944.
Five years later, an agriculture college was founded by Eddie Graham, member for Wagga and Minister for Agriculture.
The college began with 32 students and increased to 65 by 1955. As well, the Agricultural Research Institute was then opened at the college in 1954.
As the sector grew, the rural community pushed for a university, which was realised when CSU was established in 1989.
Now, the research and academic studies at CSU are combined with NSW DPI and the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation on campus.
The Riverina is also the only place in Australia that grows rice.
The SunRice headquarters and the Rice Growers Association of Australia are based in Leeton.
In describing the region’s status as a leading rice grower, political figure Sir Robert Menzies said: “Where the Riverina goes today, Australia goes tomorrow.”
Where the Riverina goes today, Australia goes tomorrow.Sir Robert Menzies, former Australian Prime Minister
In 1970, the region’s rice output climbed to $100 million.
Today, the rice sector continues to grow and hold strong, evident by accolades such as Leeton’s Randall Organic Rice securing the Gold Delicious Award.
In wheat, perhaps one of the most memorable innovation that marks the region as a leader is the McKay Harvest.
It was a machine that made its first appearance in the Wagga district in 1888.
It revolutionsed wheat growing Australia-wide and was the first time the district’s agriculturalists and townspeople had seen a machine that stripped, winnowed and bagged a wheat harvest in one operation.
The milling of flour in Wagga began in 1890 when the Murrumbidgee Milling Company began.
Founded in 1890 on a small-scale operation on Edward Street, it expanded to the point its trade name, ‘Wagga Lilly flour, became a household one.
Owned by multi-national company Goodman Fielder, it eventually shut down in December 2000 with the loss of 33 jobs.
As for drinks, the Riverina’s wine industry grows 15 per cent of Australian grape production and is the largest wine-producing region in NSW.
Most of it coming from Griffith and Leeton.
Wine began in 1912 when 1912 JJ McWilliam planted 35,000 vine cuttings at Hanwood.
Riverina Wine Makers say Italian migrants were attracted to the region after the two world wars and brought viticultural expertise along with other important agricultural interests.
In 1970, Scotty Ireland, manager of Calamia Wines in Griffith, said he believed a vintage wine festival would really put “the town on the win makers’ map”.
“People would come from all over Australia to such a festival,” he said.
The Riverina now accounts for 60pc and 50pc of NSW’s wine production and vineyards, respectively.
Also ranking first in NSW is the citrus sector in which most of the fruit are destined for the export market.
Mostly grown in Griffith, Leeton and Hillston, the region accounts for about 8800 ha of plantings in 2011.
Other notable historical incidents included a Wagga sugar company. It formed in 1871 after 12 months of meetings.
Two years after it began operating, it closed down due to bankruptcy.
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