Food in Victoria

Find information about cooking, cookbooks, restaurants, nutrition, agriculture, provisioning and food studies


This section of the guide concentrates on food growing and provisioning on a domestic scale, but also includes information on agricultural production. Shopping opportunities have changed - as the corner grocery store was replaced by  the supermarket.  Fresh food markets continue to play a role in chiefly urban food provisioning while the expansion of growers' markets and cooperatives provide a more direct link with growers and smaller scale producers.

Home and community vegetable gardens continue to supply households and contribute to the domestic economy. Regional food production, as well as supporting rural communities, has become part of the tourism industry with the development of food and wine trails.

Journals and magazines

All online resources are available inside the Library. Selected resources are available off site to Victorian registered users.
You can look at the A to Z lists for ejournals or databases to search for titles or subjects.
You can also search for journal articles using the Search box - choose Articles from the drop down list.


The Library collection includes hardcopy and online newspapers. For research help use our guides on How to find items in newspapers and How to find newspapers.


Home vegetable and fruit growing began early to provide variety in a predominantly meat and starch diet. High importing and cartage costs  further encouraged home production. Growers and plant breeders worked to identify and develop breeds of plants that would thrive in the new environment. Depending on the region, while hotter and dryer than many parts of Europe, growing seasons were longer.



Fifth edition of the Australian gardener: being a complete system of gardening as practised in Victoria - published in 1860, gardening for Victoria conditions.
Harvest of the suburbs : an environmental history of growing food in Australian cities - using survey data compares home food production.

Reading the garden : the settlement of Australia - includes school, wartime and kitchen gardens.

Gardens of the goldfields - includes productive gardens. From 1855 miners' licences included rights to 1/4 acre of land to encourage local vegetable production, in place of expensively carted produce.

Planting the nation - includes a chapter on school gardens in Victoria (1901-1914) in initiative to encourage children "to learn through experience."

Outside the magic square : a handbook for food security - survey of productive gardens and contribution they can make to sustainability and food security.
Gardenesque - survey of Australian gardening, including vegetable and productive gardens.

Wartime vegetable growing at home - exhorting the population to grow vegetables at home to meet increased demand to feed troops: "It is up to you then—grow at least a portion of the vegetable requirements of your family or you may have to go short."


Some suggested searches on the Library catalogue - includes, books, pictures, journals.

The Library also collects guides to growing vegetables and fruits.


Journals, magazines and newspapers

Australian garden history : journal of the Australian Garden History Society - includes articles on kitchen gardens, memorial gardens and market gardens. An online index is available, and indexed through Informit.
Many newspapers include articles on gardening - for example The Argus, the Camperdown chronicle and the Mildura cultivator.



Sustainable gardening Australia - pulls together gardening groups, local government initiatives, landscapers and community events.

Feral fruit trees - mapping of overhanging fruit trees in Melbourne, with guidelines for responsible foraging.

Urban farming and the agricultural show - from the National Museum of Australia, exploring the defining and redefining of food production through people, place and agriculture.
Australian city farms and community gardens network

From the Pictures Collection

The birds attack his cereals. Edward Wilson

The birds attack his cereals, H97.136/15 


The supply of foods for household tables has responded to and driven change in technologies and the availability of produce. Improved stoves, refrigerators, mixers, vitamizers and kitchen appliances came on the market, and combined with the industrialisation of food production and growth of supermarkets, the options for consuming prepared foods expanded.

Today, food shopping has spread beyond the supermarket.  A common food source for many include fresh food markets, farmers' markets, local food co-operatives and foraging, and food sharing initiatives.

Organisations such as SecondBite and Fareshare have formed to address issues of food waste and security. The Community kitchen network provides opportunity and purchasing power for shared preparation of meals.

Research guide

What it used to cost - cost of groceries, wages, housing.

Books and pamphlets

Basket, bag and trolley : a history of shopping in Australia
To feed a nation : a history of Australian food science and technology.
Shelf life : supermarkets and the changing cultures of consumption
Mutual Store, Limited, on the co-operative principle : objects & constitution of the society with catalogue of stock - catalogue from the shopping emporium, indicates the wide array of food products available by the 1880's.
Fowlers Vacola - home bottling equipment, includes catalogues, recipe books.
Emporium: selling the dream in colonial Australia - using advertisments to illustrate a vast array of products.

Journals, magazines and newspapers

Food industry and trade Victoria directories - from the Library collections.
Grocers and groceries Victoria - from the Library's collections, ranging from The grocer, which began publication in 1900, to current titles.

Pictures Collection

The Pictures Collection includes relevant images, many available online.
food industry


Australian Food and Grocery Council
Sustainable Table - not for profit organisation working on projects to promote sustainable, ethical eating and community projects.
My home harvest - Australia wide network, using social media to create an online community for localised swapping and sharing.
Fair Trade Association - organisation involved in production and sale of ethically produced goods.

Farmer's markets

Inquiry into farmer's markets
Victorian Farmers' Markets Association

Australian Farmers' Markets Association

Slow Food

International in scale, supports growers and provides local networks through markets and other promotional activities.
Melbourne Slow Food
Slow Food International

Strawberries growing out of holes in the barrels...


Strawberries growing in barrels


Strawberries growing in barrels, H2011.73/47


Early food consumption patterns followed the English model fairly faithfully, modified by some indigenous foods - mainly game and fish. The pastoral industry drove the initial expansion of settlement until the gold rush caused a massive influx of immigrants to regional mining areas. Fruit and vegetable production was concentrated in the domestic sphere until the growth of market gardens, initially undertaken by Chinese people during and after the goldrush. 

The Horticultural Society of Victoria, founded in 1849 by John Pascoe Fawkner, developed an experimental garden in Richmond, later to become the Burnley Gardens, and from 1891 the Burnley Horticultural College. The Society encouraged the development of botanical and horticultural sciences as well as amateur involvement. The Special culturist enthused in 1895 of the great bounty possible in Victoria: “What is the colony specially adapted to produce and the answer is pretty well everything used by man – we have a soil and climate equal to any in the world, capable of supplying nearly everything that man can desire.”


Pastoral Australia - surveys the history of the industry from 1788-1967.
European farming in Australia: an economic history of Australian farming
Australian agriculture : its history and challenges - from comparison with British conditions at the time of settlement to explore settler practices; to current issues. Covers main agricultural industries, including fruit and vegetable production.

Local histories and histories of agricultural societies - use the library catalogue to search for a place name, or region. The Australiana Index can also be searched for place names and local history subjects.

Journals, magazines and newspapers

Victorian historical journal - online access to articles covering the history of Victoria.
Agriculture in Victoria - list of publications dating from 1855 to present day.
Weekly times - published from 1858 as Bear's weekly circular and rural economist
National Agricultural Society, later the Royal Agricultural Society publications.
Horticultural Society of Victoria - including schedules of prizes, map of the experimental gardens and lists of exhibits at the Intercolonial Exhibition of 1866.


Statistical publications are useful for indicating the range of produce available, quantities, exports - data varies according to publication.
Statistical notes on the progress of Victoria : from the foundation of the colony (1835-1860)
Historical selected agriculture commodities, by state (1861 to present)
Agricultural and live stock statistics of the colony of Victoria 1857-1867.
The year book of agriculture 1905
Victorian yearbooks (1873-2002) - provides valuable statistical information on a wide range of topics, including agricultural and industrial food production.
Year Book Australia (1908-2012)
Agriculture (Australian Bureau of Statistics)


Victoria's early history - State Library research guide that lists many sources for information on early agricultural endeavours.
Australian agriculture and rural life - from the State Library of New South Wales, online exhibition of digitised collection items
Agriculturists in Victoria from the Australian dictionary of biography.

From the Pictures Collection

 Dishes on kitchen sink in contrasting light and shadow. Image copyright Mark Strizic
Dishes on kitchen sink in contrasting light and shadow. Image copyright Mark Strizic, H2008.11/1309

Early morning at the market

Early morning at the market, IAN01/07/90/5

Lieut. J. D. KIDD (left) and Lieut. J. N. HAWKINS tend their garden of vegetables to supply the mess

Lieut. J. D. KIDD (left) and Lieut. J. N. HAWKINS tend their garden of vegetables to supply the mess, H99.201/2714