by Ken. J. Stubbs, Field Officer , VRI-Frankston
First published in the Victorian Vegetable Growers’ Digest,
Situated close to the foothills of the Dandenongs, some twelve miles
from Melbourne, the fine Wheelers Hill property of Messrs Allen Brothers
might not have survived but for the determined efforts of a courageous
woman – their mother.
The late Mr. L. Allen Senior gave up share dairy farming at Bentleigh
and moved to the area in 1920.
Leasing eighty acres of land on top of Wheelers Hill he grew potatoes,
peas, crucifer crops and melons.
Four years later,
he was able to buy a nearby thirty acre property which, when cleared
of fifteen acres of timber, was put under vegetables.
In 1926 he bought a truck and transportation of produce to the Victoria
Market – previously taking 24 hours for the round trip with horse teams
– was speeded up. In 1929, he added an adjoining fifteen
acre block to his property.
Mr. Allen’s untimely death in 1934 left his wife and eldest son
Les to carry on the business. Les had just turned eighteen.
With three younger children at school the task might well have been beyond
a woman of lesser calibre, but, with Les a willing partner, inspired
with his mother’s energy and guidance, their business prospered.
Through hard times, watermelons and strawberries were often sold from
a roadside stall, but by 1937 the family had bought its first tractor.
Water became available in 1936 and irrigation enabled a greater variety
of crops to be grown right through the year.
Three years later they purchased another fifty-five acres, which was
irrigated and pipe drained as it was cleared.
With the war, came mechanization. Their first row-crop tractor, and
a power duster, were obtained, methods changed and improved, and
production increased accordingly.
Like many others, the family was kept busy during these years fulfilling
army contracts, growing mainly brussels sprouts and cauliflowers.
Frank Allen joined the partnership in 1943, and eventually his
younger brother Roy in 1948.
All three sons had now come into the business, yet Mrs. Allen so
much enjoyed work that she still maintained an active interest and did
so for the remaining years of her life. The loss of their mother last
year was deeply felt by her family, who pay tribute in giving her full
credit for their success.
Although still the centre of operations of Messrs Allen Bros, the original
holding is now worked in conjunction with seventy acres fronting Springvale
Road which was bought in 1947.
Both properties are pipe drained and fully irrigated through pumping
systems from storage dams. Some 12,000,000 gallons of
water are used annually.
The main crops grown are brussels sprouts, cauliflowers, cabbage, potatoes, parsnips,carrots,lettuce
and celery. Twenty acres of brussels sprouts are grown
annually for both Sydney and Melbourne markets.
Teamwork is an important factor in any partnership and each of the Allen
brothers has his own field of operations.
Les is kept busy with the general planning of the property and organization
Until 1950 he was also market man
Frank Allen has a flair for machinery and attends to machinery maintenance
in addition to doing the heavy tractor work, ploughing, scooping etc.,
preparatory to cropping. Some years ago the Aliens developed
a highly successful four furrow plough which pulls up two furrows each
way, forming the lands in one operation. There are
three row-crop tractors and three heavy tractors to keep in working order.
Row crop sowing, cultivation, and a continuous pest and
disease control, and chemical weed control programme, are
the responsibilities of Roy Allen. Small sheds or spray
depots, placed at points over the property, save the
time taken returning to the main buildings to refill spray machines. Keenly
interested in developments in the weed control field, Roy was one of
the first to practice large scale chemical weed control with Chloro I.P.C. on
transplanted onions. This followed the Department’s
trials on the property in 1957-58.
Vegetable experiments have been carried out on the Allen property for
From 1951 to 1957 an extensive fertiliser trial was done on half an acre
of virgin land, to investigate internal rot in Brussels sprouts. Although
internal rot did not develop, sufficiently useful information on fertiliser
practice and club root control was obtained.
Many fertiliser and weed control trials have been done since then, with
every assistance from the Allen brothers. At present
new weed control chemicals are being tried on parsnips, carrots, red-beet
and celery, the results of which will be published when available.
Men employed by Messrs Allen Bros, are fortunate in that they enjoy the
benefits of a contributing superannuation scheme, which has been in operation
for 14 years. Their market man has been with them more
than twenty years and 18 to 20 other workers are employed.
Les Allen has been active all his life in promoting the Victorian vegetable
growing industry. He has been a committee-man of the
Victorian Vegetable Growers’ Association since the late thirties and
was President of that Association in 1956-57. He was President
of the Chamber of Agriculture in 1953 and President of the Australian
Vegetable Growers’ Association from 1958 to 1960.
Federal Vegetable Growers’ conferences have carried him three times around
our capital cities. In 1956 he toured the Salinis
Valley and other vegetable growing areas of the U.S.A. with Mr. Clarrie
Corrigan – a leading Dandenong vegetable grower – studying new transportation
and cultivation methods.
Les worked hard for the improved transportation of brussels sprouts to
the Sydney market. Such factors as improved packaging,
loading, and icing of transports, improved unloading at Sydney, and an
intensive advertising campaign in Sydney, have all helped sprout growers
dispose of overproduction for a reasonable return.
While loath to talk about himself, Les Allen is outspoken in his
conviction that all Victorian vegetable growers should be united. He
would like to see every grower a member of the Victorian Vegetable Growers’
Association so that they might assist in promoting the sale of fresh
vegetables to the public, as a cheap source of high nutrient food. He
insists that if a vegetable advertising campaign can succeed in Sydney,
it can succeed here.
With the housing development creeping steadily outwards, the Allens may
soon have to fall back to their Narre Warren property which they have
bought in anticipation.
(K.J.S., Spring, 1961)