Remarkable record of the Marchioro family’s market gardening business
It’s 1949, on the banks of the River Torrens at Lockleys, and two young boys are milking a cow so their mother can make cheese and butter for the family. At 3 o’clock in the morning, their dad will take the horse and cart to the East End Market with their market-garden produce. Depending on the season this could be tomatoes, trombones, beetroots, beans, and onions.
One of those boys, Giancarlo (Johnny) Marchioro recently donated to the State Library a remarkable record of his family’s market gardening business, a business that ran for almost four decades and involved three generations.
Johnny Marchioro was born in Adelaide in 1940, the son of Italian migrants from the Veneto region in the north-east of Italy. His parents developed a market garden in what is now Kidman Park, before moving in the late 1940s to the southern side of the River Torrens, in Lockleys. There they grew tomatoes, onions, cabbages, beetroot, beans, and lettuce for three decades.
When Johnny left school, he worked with his parents at Lockleys and began keeping records of planting, picking, and selling vegetables at market. Over a period of 38 years, he kept meticulous records of all aspects of the family market garden, including establishing new market gardens at Bolivar in 1965/6. He has now donated these records to the State Library (PRG 1727).
A unique and comprehensive record
The three record books provide a detailed and continuous record for the years 1956 to 1994. Information about the market gardens from the stage of obtaining seed, sowing plants, to picking and grading for sale to shopkeepers at the East End market in Adelaide is included.
They provide a snapshot of the types of vegetables cultivated on land at Lockleys and later, at Bolivar, for sale at market. There is evidence of trends in demand and prices, and in the specialisation of growing tomatoes and vegetables over time. They show changes in the range of crops grown, market prices, and the operational costs and earnings involved in working a small, intensive family market garden.
The increase of large-scale businesses cultivating vegetables for the supermarket trade in the 1990s had a major impact on small family-owned market gardens and Johnny finished selling at the market around 2007.
The State Library is fortunate to have other archival records that complement the record books, including an earlier donation by Johnny of photographs (B 70982), and oral history interviews with Johnny, his wife, brother, and parents (OH 872/1, OH 896/7, OH 872/20, OH 12/1 respectively). Together with interviews with market gardeners of other cultural backgrounds and in different regions (OH 942, OH 1130), and the records of the SA Horticultural Association (SRG 455), the State Library has a significant record of this important aspect of our state’s history.
Why we love them
The three record books tell the story of an Italian market-gardening family and the evolution of its business from the late 1950s to the 1990s. We expect researchers of the history of market gardening, migrant stories, food history, economics and commerce, and the impact of climate change on food production to be very excited at the opportunities offered by this donation. We are also looking forward to trying the biscotti recipe in one of the books!
Record from the first book: schedule for sowing seeds and planting for the range of vegetables grown at Lockleys in April 1966.
Records of the sale of tomatoes in 1959 and 1960. The columns show: cost of a full box of premium tomatoes (price set by the SA Fruit Growers and Market Gardeners Association), First grade, Second grade, Third grade, total boxes of tomatoes, date of market day. The records also show the difference between tomatoes grown in glasshouses and tomatoes grown outside.
Three record books detailing the Marchioro market gardening business from 1956-1994 (ACC 4034).
How to access the records
The records have now been processed, see PRG 1727, and you can request to look at them in the Somerville Reading Room.