You’ll Always be welcome at Samford Commons

In preparing for Samford Commons launch event on 24th May, we decided to delve back into the history of the CSIRO land. CSIRO itself was even way back then, looking at sustainable agriculture in its own way. Now Samford Commons carries on as a core value, not only Sustainable Agriculture but also Sustainable Living. Although the Samford Commons agriculture vision may be limited to a few hectares at this time, the CSIRO utilised 290 plus hectares.

Where to find a little more about the Samford CSIRO?……Our very own the Samford Museum of course!

With lots of help from Geoff Harris and volunteers, various books and lots of articles referencing CSIRO history were gathered together for this article.

As different spellings of people’s names and slight conflicts in information were discovered, there may in turn be minor errors in the following article. Please enjoy the read anyway!

First up, in the interest of the 100th Anniversary of ANZAC having passed by only a few weeks ago, an article mentioned there is also a little war history to be found in the CSIRO land.

During World War II, American Army personnel used an airstrip located within the land that was destined to become a part of the CSIRO.

CSIRO land acquisition history

CSIRO was originally established in 1958 with around 204 acres (82.62 ha). The land was at the time was an established dairy farm and was purchased from My Cyril Gosden. (Another article referred to the vendor as a Mr Gossling).

Surprisingly (or not?) a little murkiness turned up with the second land purchase.

In 1959 the CSIRO expanded by purchasing another established dairy farm of 431 acres (174.5 ha) from Abraham (Abe) and Laura Campbell. Unfortunately it would appear the CSIRO used standover tactics at the time. One article refers to the Campbells being forced to leave their farm at two days notice and soon after being granted another two weeks to leave, after accepting what appeared to be a very low settlement price at the time.

Later a further approximate 79 acres (31.9 ha) was purchased from a Mrs Hendrickson and a Mr Donaldson to make a grand total of just on 714 acres (289.02ha). One article mentioned 291.22 ha (approx 720 acres), yet still referred to 714 acres.

CSIRO Aim and Divisions

Samford CSIRO map

Samford CSIRO map

Productivity in pasture for both beef cattle and dairy cows, under intensive grazing management, was monitored and measured. The aim was to increase turn-off rates for beef cattle and increase milk outputs in dairy cows.

Through both field trials and field experiments CSIRO was looking at sustainable agriculture, although sustainable agriculture was an unlikely catch phrase at that time.

There was also a Division Forest Products established in 1979 following the closure of Division Dairy. Two types of pine trees (Slash and Caribbean) were being researched for long time sustainability in the forestry industry. Glass houses were put into use to raise the pine tree seedlings.

Division Animal Health had a large facility for surprise, surprise… animal health. Although perhaps some what would be considered these days as “not so healthy” things went on there.

Division Soil also was intermittently involved in measuring nutrition in soil, up until around 1991.

In a nutshell the CSIRO complex ran a beef cattle herd as well as a dairy herd. Tropical crops and pastures were grown for experiments. Once experiments were finished, these areas were often grazed as pastures.

Individual plots for pastures experiments ranged in size from one square metre, up to three hectares. Each pasture experiment then, by adding all the individual plots together, ranged in size from tens of square metres, to up to twenty hectares.

The cattle herd started as a Hereford stud until around 1990 when issues with heavy infestations of cattle ticks, the program changed over to a breeding Belmont Red. This breed was originally developed at CSIRO Rockhampton. Belmont Red cattle were a cross of 50% Afrikander and 50% Hereford/Shorthorn.

At the peak of the program, the property was carrying around 300 beef cattle and 40 Jersey dairy cows.

In later years the Belmont Red evolved to become a growing out program for steers as CSIRO further practiced sustainable agriculture. Steers were trucked in from the former CSIRO Narayan Research Station at Munduberra, with the turn-off target for market in the 450 to 500 kg weight range.


As part of the complex, a house was built on the farm. One long term occupant of the house was Laurie Balfour, who had originally arrived in Samford in 1939 at the age of eight.

Laurie was an employee at the farm for thirty years, starting in the 1950’s. For the last twenty six years of those thirty years, Laurie lived in the house with his wife and family.

Apparently the CSIRO wanted someone in the house as there were some “things” they didn’t want anyone else to touch.

The house is known as “Cash House” in what is now known as the Soccer precinct, within the Samford Parklands area.

CSIRO Employees

Gordon Scheaffe was the first Officer in Charge of the site. He continued in this position until 1987, when he retired. Next up, came Peter Grant, who in turn retired in 1993. Geoff Bunch then became Office in Charge and stayed in this position until the station was closed and the land sold in 2002.

Most of the employees were locals, one of whom as mentioned above was Laurie Balfour.

In his first years he was involved in general farm work and fencing. Other jobs involved ploughing for planting the improved pastures that formed the core of the experiments for sustainable agriculture.

By the early 1960’s, Laurie became involved in the Hereford cattle side of the project, followed by the Belmont Red program.

The Glasshouses

Even today, the CSIRO glasshouses remain highly visible and trigger the memories of the hey day of CSIRO and all it represented… at least for those that were around back in the days when the research farm was still operational.

The largest of the glasshouses had individual rooms. These rooms could be controlled to regulate environments for both temperature and length of day.

In the early years, the glasshouses were watered by hand, seven days a week! Later on, an electronic watering system was installed. Apparently this was a sad day for staff, with many now missing out on their “watering” overtime bonus!

One glasshouse was dedicated to act as a Quarantine centre. Imported plants from overseas were inspected here and monitored for pests and disease. This glasshouse also had an airlock to safeguard against any spread of pests and/or disease.

Other Buildings

The Seed Store also acted as a seed bank. Very rare plant species seeds were housed there. Primarily, the Seed store housed many varieties of seeds which required extremely low temperatures for storage.

The Seed store was housed in the brick building situated on the left, as you progress along the roadway, through the now Samford Commons site.

The Animal Health buildings comprised office and laboratory facilities, as well as an operating “theatre”. Collection of samples from experimental cattle was carried out in this “theatre”. There were also covered pens where cattle were housed. These experiments were carried out until around 1987.

On entering the now Samford Commons site, the Animal Health buildings described above are those you see ahead on the left as you drive past the glasshouses.

The Samford Archery Club is situated in the area used by the Division Soils. Soils buildings comprised a small laboratory, and an office. There was also a steel shed where drill core samples and soil samples taken from around Queensland were stored.

The Dairy farm buildings were further in through the CSIRO complex. These buildings comprised a small laboratory, an office, and a shed with milking bails. There were also sheds for dairy and fodder storage.

Once the dairy farm closed down, the Division of Forest Products (also known as Woodland Ecology), moved in. A large workshop and machinery shed were added, along with a couple of other smaller buildings.


Visitors to the site came from countries all over the world, and interstate, as well as teachers and students by the bus load.

The last visitor who signed was a Paul Shortis of Brisbane on the 2nd March 1994. He made the comment “very informative”.

For more information it is worth the time to pay a visit the Samford Museum. The museum also has a variety of items from the CSIRO laboratory as well as a selection of signs. One of the CSIRO Visitor books is also at the museum. This book tells a story of people and places from all around the world within the signed pages.

The Samford Museum is open every Wednesday and Sunday from 10.00 an to 4.00 pm. A small admission fee is charged. The museum is open by appointment for larger parties of visitors too. Contact number is 3289 6537 or email info@samfordmuseum.com.au

Note: the museum is closed over the Christmas school holidays.

The museum also practices sustainable agriculture, with the museum having a stingless native bee hive right near the front gates.

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