On 29 April 1893 eleven men met at the Mooi River railway station to talk about forming a farmers' association. Two months later, on 13 June 1893, the Mooi River Farmers' Association was formally established and the foundation members were Charles B Lloyd (President), Alexander Lawrence (Vice President), H Albrecht (Secretary), Walter Ballantyne, John Bartholomew, Nourse Varty, E Cautherley, Cotton Acutt, Max Sackville West and A J Harmsworth.
Alexander Lawrence willingly donated two acres of land in Market Street for the purpose of the Association and 700 railway sleepers were bought from Mr Palmer in Estcourt. The sale yards were erected in time for the first stock sale which was held on 4 October 1893.
During the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 to 1902, the British Military authorities commandeered the sale yards and when they were handed back to the Association they were in disrepair. A new sale yard was built of iron at a cost of £437.
In 1926 a hall was built at the sale yards but by 1954 these facilities were inadequate and in 1958, 90 acres of land were bought from Susanna Brunt's farm Brooklands for £11 000. In August 1959 the new complex, as we know it today, was opened.
One of the features of agriculture in Mooi River has been the quality of the cattle, as much due to the knowledge of the farmers as to the effect of the environment, which encompasses sweet veld and sour veld.
From early days the main breed in the district was Shorthorn cattle, both dairy and beef. The dairy Shorthorns were the basis of a thriving cream and butter industry which lasted well into the 1950s. The beef Shorthorns, on the other hand, were renowned for their meat quality and were exported to Europe where they competed favourably with Argentinean beef.
Needless to say it was just a matter of time before other, more productive breeds, were introduced.
The Mooi River Farmers' Association pioneered fat stock sales in South Africa and the Mooi River Christmas fat stock sale held in December 1906 was the first in the country. In 1913 it was decided to hold the fat stock sales in winter and these sales brought in the best fat cattle in the Midlands. This continues today.
Vegetables were not forgotten and these included fruit, potatoes, maize and rhubarb. The MRFA lobbied the railway authorities for a produce train to run between Durban and Johannesburg as often as necessary and for a reduction of the high transport rates. The farmers meant business.
Many of today's farmers are direct descendents of those pioneers who established the reputation of Mooi River as a dynamic farming community.
This information was taken from 'History of Mooi River and District 1939' written by E J Shorten and from research done by Philip Romeyn who was curator of the Rohde House Museum in Mooi River.
Prepared by June Vincent
8 November 2009