The Station was established by the NSW Government in 1902 and includes a heritage listed main office building, tree-line driveway and some original farm buildings. It’s primary purpose was to investigate and evaluate suitable crop and livestock varieties for the north coast region and to provide superior stud stock to encourage the improvement of local herds.
One of the Station’s historical functions was as a training institute for young men seeking careers in farming. This activity commenced in 1911 and continued to 1939 and included 5 595 boys trained under the Dreadnought Scheme, a scheme which brought young English boys to New South Wales to be trained in farm work and when considered proficient to be “distributed to the farmers of the state.” The Dreadnought scheme was so named after funds raised in New South Wales for the construction of a Dreadnought battleship for the British navy were instead diverted to the establishment of an Australian naval college at Jervis Bay and to the training of boys, mostly child migrants from Britain, in farm skills at seven state government research farms. At the time the research Station at Grafton focussed on training boys in dairy farming.
Since opening in 1902, the Station has made a major contribution to our knowledge of coastal agricultural production and has played a significant role in developing technologies associated with aquaculture, horticulture, cereal crops, summer legumes, pastures and livestock husbandry. Most recently, the station has made and is continuing to make, significant advances in beef cattle production, silver perch aquaculture, crop improvement for coastal farming systems (soybean, barley and triticale) and aquatic and terrestrial weed control.
In 1986, the Grafton Aquaculture Centre opened to conduct studies into the conservation of the endangered Eastern Freshwater Cod and to assist in the development of a fish aquaculture industry in NSW. In a joint initiative with TAFE, a Training Centre was established on site and training in aquaculture was developed. The Training Centre currently delivers courses in agriculture, horticulture, conservation and land management and rural skills.