Ray Owen inducted into the WA Agricultural Hall of Fame

Shannon VerhagenCountryman
2020 WA Agricultural Hall of Fame inductee Ray Owen.
Camera Icon2020 WA Agricultural Hall of Fame inductee Ray Owen. Credit: Supplied

Cementing his legacy as a giant in the industry, late politician and agricultural scientist Ray Owen has been posthumously inducted into the WA Agricultural Hall of Fame.

His portrait — due to be unveiled later this year — will be the latest to hang among those of fellow visionaries and leaders in the agricultural sector over the years.

The Royal Agricultural Society of WA honour commemorates Ray’s journey from a young boy growing up among the orchards in what is now known as Pickering Brook, to becoming one of the most respected figures in horticulture.

It all began when a 13-year-old Ray was awarded a scholarship to attend the Narrogin School of Agriculture in 1919, where he developed a talent for blacksmithing and a well-rounded appreciation for farming and agriculture.

He then went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Western Australia — where he lectured for six years — and rose through the ranks of the Department of Agriculture.

Ray’s work took him throughout the State to WA's primary fruit growing areas, helping control outbreaks of destructive pests and diseases.

His commitment to the Australian fruit-growing industry spanned decades, from being a foundation member at the Institute of Agriculture in 1936, to serving as chair and president of the Western Australian Fruit Central Citrus Council and spending 22 years as the WA delegate to the Australian National Citrus Growers Association.

He also played a pivotal role in the creation of the Export Stone Fruit Growers Association in 1965.

During World War II, Ray’s skills were deemed vital to the war effort and he retrained at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, applying his expert inspection skills to the canned and dehydrated fruit and vegetables issued to Australian and American troops.

In 1944 he embarked on a new career in politics, landing the WA parliamentary seat of Swan, but in 1947 returned to his “fruit salad” orchard in Kalamunda, which he later expanded, purchasing a nearby property in York.

He later served as the Country Party Member for Darling Range for 12 years and played a big role in Kalamunda receiving its first reticulated water supply in 1954.

In 1966, Ray was appointed the first Freeman of Kalamunda, with the Shire later naming Ray Owen Reserve and Raymond Street in his honour.

Later in life, Ray dedicated much of his time to recording his knowledge and experience, sharing it with oral historians and his daughter, Helen, who digitised many hours of conversations, before he passed away in 2003, aged 97.

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