Abstract: In the late nineteenth century the Pera Bore, not far from Bourke, became the site of a unique experiment farm. No other government experiment farm was located so far from a capital city or agricultural district. The experiments were to test the suitability of old rain – artesian water – for irrigating small agricultural holdings in the rangelands. What happened at Pera Bore and why was it built? What agenda drove the push for agriculture in the dry interior? How did the experiences at Pera Bore and other western experiment farms shape science and broader attitudes towards the occupation of semi-arid places? This paper explores a short episode in the early history of agricultural science in Australia, and asks what might the story of the western experiment farms bring to current reflections on knowledge for place?