Boort is an Aboriginal name meaning, “ smoke from the hill”. The town is situated on a lunette and on the edge of a lake. The area around Boort and east to the Loddon River was a regular camping area of the Jaara Aborigines. Many middens still exist today; some, in the lake-bed of the Big Lake Boort are very well preserved.
Major Mitchell who travelled through the area in 1836 wrote,“My experience enables me to speak in the most favourable terms of the Aborigines. They are never awkward, in manners and general intelligence they appear superior to any class of white rustics
Their shrewdness shines through even the medium of imperfect language and renders them very agreeable companions”
In early 1840’s white squatters began bringing flocks into the Loddon area which earlier had been given very glowing reports by Major Mitchell . In 1843 Henry Godfrey moved to Boort and took over the Boort Station.
The Boort Township was founded in 1871 to service the growing agricultural, pastoral and dairying industries of the district. In those early years there were some industries other than agriculture that contributed to the local economy. In the early 1900’s gypsum was mined and employed up to 60 men. A clothing factory provided employment for 18 women in the early 1940’s.
In 1947 the population of Boort was recorded as 711. The population grew steadily until 1976 when it reached 878. It then levelled out and started to fall until 1986. Since 1986 the population has remained fairly stable at just over 800.
Whilst population remained reasonably constant since1986, a major change was taking place in the economy. Profitability had declined significantly in much of the districts agricultural industries and farmers’ terms of trade fell severely. During this period, quality of life was an important social goal and rural communities strove to keep up. In Boort a new Secondary College was built, a new Hospital, a new Hostel for the Aged, new sporting facilities, a new medical and Dental Clinic. Parks and gardens and streetscapes were improved.
On a superficial level the town looked to be progressing well. Outstanding services and amenities were available, but the district economy, based solely on agriculture was shrinking. Also Governments and big business were rationalizing their community contact points. What was then the State Rivers and Rural Water Corporation closed their Boort office and consolidated in Pyramid Hill. The then Lands Department closed its Boort office and moved staff to Kerang. Westpac Bank closed its branch in Boort. The Ford garage closed, together with several shops in the main street. The local paper, the life-line of any community, closed after many decades of producing “The Boort Standard”. It was very evident to all that what was once a busy thriving town was now in trouble.
The town was still a beautiful and idyllic haven with a strong and growing tourism industry and a very efficient and high producing tomato industry and a lucerne -cubing mill. Whilst these industries were very important and contributed much to the local economy, much of their contribution was seasonal.
The major dilemma facing Boort was that if the town population declined any further it would not have the mass to sustain the excellent services it provides as in Secondary college, hospital, doctor, dentist, veterinary clinic, etc.
The Shire of Gordon recognized the situation facing both Boort and Pyramid Hill, the two towns in the Shire, and sought to stem the decline and to grow the economy. The Shire appointed Development Committees in both towns and they set in place some goals and strategies. In 1989 the Shire visited Donald, a town that had determined it would fight back and seek to survive and grow against the odds. Following the visit to Donald the Shire purchased industrial land in Boort and employed a Facilitator under the then R.E.V. scheme. The Development Committee was successful in attracting an Oaten hay processing company from South Australia to come and set up on the industrial land that had been serviced with the help of the State Government The mill not only provided employment but also increased the agricultural enterprises available to local farmers who wished to grow Oaten hay for the mill.
The Facilitator employed by the Shire, Mr. John Chapman had a vision of changes in land use in the Boort irrigation district from the traditional crops and grazing to high value crops such as vegetables and horticulture, as had happened years before with tomatoes.He saw Boort as the Shepparton of the 21st century.
Tomato production was introduced into the Boort district in the early 1970’s by Mario Brunelli and his son, Kevin. It has grown to be one of our nations premium tomato growing area in both quality and yield, with financial and social benefits flowing to the whole community.
The Boort Water Services committee of Goulburn Murray Irrigation were also concerned that with transferable water rights there was a risk that much of the districts great asset, water, could be transferred out of the region going to areas of high value crops. The Boort district needed to increase the area under high value crops to ensure that water would not be transferred out limiting options for the future. The move from traditional crops and pasture to high value crops require suitable land, available water, new skills, a large financial investment plus courage and determination. The Boort district had the first two requirements- good land and water. New skills can be learned or purchased. Large financial investments needed to be attracted in.
At this time Shire amalgamations took place and Boort Township was dealt a severe blow with the closing of the Shire offices and reduction of staff at the Shire Depot.
The new Shire of Loddon was unconvinced that assisting to grow the district economy was a core part of Local Government responsibilities. However, after constant pressure and a change in personnel, the policy changed and the Loddon Shire adopted a very positive attitude to macro-economic initiatives. The Shire supported this policy with a large financial commitment , and combined with the City of Greater Bendigo, Gannawarra Shire, Goulburn –Murray Water, Lower – Murray Water, D.N.R.E. and Loddon – Murray 2000 Plus to form the Loddon – Murray Agribusiness Initiative. This group subsequently employed an Agricultural Development Officer to work with the Loddon Shire Economic Development Officer, Peter Kulich. The Loddon C.E.O., Craig Neimann has a strong commitment to economic development and to rural communities and was instrumental in the establishment of this iniative.
The agriculture sector is amajor industry in the Boort area which is a part of the Loddon Shire, and is also known as the Loddon Valley area.
This is characterised by a diverse mix of traditional agriculture, new horticulture investments, and broadacre and intensive farming with high quality modernised irrigation systems to support and sustain growth.
These features, combined with the region’s ideal Mediterranean climate clearly show why this area is suitable for a wide range of cropping, horticulture and stock enterprises.
Cropping – Winter – wheat, barley, oats, canola, lupins
Cropping – Summer – vetch, lucerne, oats
Fodder – sheep & prime lambs, angora goats, beef cattle
Horticulture – olives, tomatoes, wine grapes
A Brief History of Boort by Russell Malone.