The first European settlers in Australia, through necessity, often became farmers. This was certainly the case with my convict ancestors who settled in the Hawkesbury region of New South Wales. There was a shortage of food in the colony so convicts and former convicts were encouraged, through grants of land, to grow food and farm animals for themselves and the other members of the colony.
This did not mean that they were all full time farmers. Uriah was best known as a baker and owner of a general store in Windsor though he did own land on which grain was grown. Richard Holland owned land at Cornwallis but also owned a shop in Windsor that was recorded, on occasions, as a bakers or butchers shop.
In 2015 I wrote a detailed post about the challenges of farming in the Hawkesbury area in the early 1800s.
- The land needed to be cleared for farming, no doubt a time consuming process especially as limited implements for doing this would have been available.
- The local Aboriginal groups were used to free access of this land (their land) and were not happy with the idea that the land was now restricted to the use of the English settlers.
- The convicts did not necessarily have previous experience in farming. Finding crops that would grow successfully in New South Wales was initially a challenge.
- There was the need to protect new crops from animals and insects. Fences were required to mark property boundaries and enclosures to protect farm animals.
- Then there was the weather. The seasons were out of kilter with the northern hemisphere and the climate was different and more extreme than experienced in England. The most dramatic climatic event being the regular flooding of the Hawkesbury River.