Olinda Yarra has been making history since first established in 1868.
Renowned as once being the largest and most advanced Dairy Cattle Farm in the region, Olinda Yarra was founded in 1868 by John Kerr. John purchased 1,500 acres of semi swamp land on the river flats near Yarra Glen naming it Olinda Yarra – from the properties Yarra River and Olinda Creek frontage.
Later in 1870 John married Elizabeth Macintyre (daughter of Thomas Macintyre) and they grew to a large family with 10 children living in the Homestead, a custom built Edwardian/Queen Anne villa. The Kerr Family were true pioneers.
John cultivated the land and successfully grew good pasture to feed his large dairy herd. By 1880 he had milking sheds covering about a quarter of an acre and a staff of 17 to help send 200 gallons of milk to Melbourne daily, using the old Yering Railway Station located near the farm entrance for transport. The iconic Railway Bridge located on Olinda Yarra is one of the few remaining structures that showcases this transportation corridor.
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, making Olinda Yarra the most modern Dairy of its time.
Community and Events
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.
Olinda Yarra played a huge role in the welfare of the district, always hosting community and private events and fundraising. The property was a popular place of gathering – full of people, laughter and good times.
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 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.
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.