Farmer Rob, his partner Shelley and children are passionate about farming and produce and also about their farm, Olinda Yarra Estate, and its history where it all began.
In 2008 Farmer Rob purchased and became the fifth owner of Olinda Yarra Estate in it’s 150 year history. Not only does Farmer Rob enjoy living and working on the Olinda Yarra farm, but he loves sharing Olinda Yarras’ story…
Olinda Yarra was founded in 1868 by John Kerr buying a substantial 1,500 acres of semi swamp land on the river flats near Yarra Glen and naming it Olinda Yarra – from the properties Yarra River and Olinda Creek frontage. John knew he had a lot of work ahead of him to work the land and pursue his dream of producing a large dairying herd and supplying milk to Melbourne.
In 1870 John married Elizabeth Macintyre and they grew to a large family with ten children. The Kerr Family were true pioneers and together with a team of workers and work horses cultivated the land by hand and successfully grew good pasture to feed his large dairy herd. By 1880 the Kerrs’ had milking sheds on Olinda Yarra covering about a quarter of an acre and a staff of 17 milking cows by hand and sending 200 gallons of milk to Melbourne daily, using the old Yering Railway Station. The iconic trestle railway bridges can be seen on Olinda Yarra to this day.
John led the way in Dairying and Farming in the region, eventually becoming Chief Dairying Supervisor for the department of Agriculture. John’s knowledge and expertise extended from the introduction of Herd testing to ensure quality cattle and breeding programs, to pasture, cropping and land management. Writing many articles, heading farmer’s leagues and discussion groups was a matter of course for John to help improve the regions farmland and educate the Yarra Valleys’ farmers. It is no surprise that these efforts began to be recognised and by 1936 the Yarra Valley was declared the states finest Pasture Land.
Some of John’s innovations included building Olinda Yarra’s iconic Silos which were used for fermenting hay known as silage, an important high milk producing feed used widely for dairy cattle to this day.
John was also the first to install an electric plant in 1912. This generator and pump system chilled the milk while waiting transport using the farm’s Well water, a 200,000 litre underground well tank of water, still used today, making Olinda Yarra the most modern Dairy during this time.
John founded various community organisations and was even a one time member of the Lilydale Shire Council playing a pivotal role in growing farming in the region. When John realised the fertile flood plains in the area could create further farming opportunities for farmers and the community members, he commissioned a project with the council. This resulted in John and his team of hard working people and horses, extending the Olinda and Stringybark Creeks across the flood plains broadening the farmland region as we know it today.
John Kerr was a man of great force of character and natural ability. But he was also something better, renowned as a man of high moral principle and unswerving goodness, community mattered and helping farmers mattered. Olinda Yarra played a huge role in the welfare of the district, regularly hosting farmers markets, community and private events and fundraising. The property was a popular place of gathering – bringing people and knowledge together with laughter and good times.
Living to the age of 92, John Kerr, his family and Olinda Yarra, have certainly made a significant contribution to farming, the Yarra Valley community and region of today. Olinda Yarra will always occupy a unique place in history, especially for Farmer Rob, Shelley and their family.
Farmer Rob is a long time agriculturist who is passionate about farming, sharing and growing knowledge while offering support to local farm produce suppliers. Most importantly Farmer Rob and the family enjoy connecting people of all ages with quality made produce.
These days Farmer Rob his partner Shelley and their children are kept extremely busy on the Olinda Yarra farm. With over a thousand acres there are many jobs ranging from pasture cultivation, planting trees, providing prime grazing for their large herds of angus cattle, to hay cropping, fencing repairs, machinery and buildings maintenance.
There is also caring for all the other farm animals like the cheeky chickens and ducks, cute mini ponies, alpacas, goats and sheep. Every day is an adventure and work varies as there are so many factors influencing life on the farm and Farmer Rob and his family are driven by this passion – growing, making and appreciating produce.
We hope you enjoy Farmer Rob’s Produce offerings and help grow our marketplace along the way.