Agriculture in Jersey

Agriculture in the Island is dominated by two main activities: Dairy farming with the ‘Jersey’ breed of dairy cow and growing the ‘Jersey Royal’ potato.

The total area of land under cultivation at around 36,500 vergées (2.25 vergées in an English acre), represents 56% of the island area. The number of agricultural holdings has declined dramatically following the Second World War, at which time there were over 1,000 holdings, to less than 100 commercial farm operations today. The average size of the holdings has grown substantially, largely reflecting changes that have occurred throughout neighbouring countries over the same time period.

The pattern of land ownership in the island is distinct in that the majority of land, some 75%, is not farmed by the owners but let to active farmers on a variety of lease agreements. The average size of fields in Jersey is estimated to be 6.5 vergees (3 acres or 1.2 hectares) surrounded by banks and hedgerows, with access via a network of narrow roads.  This, coupled with the inherently high costs of production in an island, has led to the concentration of agricultural production on the two added value products originating in Jersey.   

 

The Jersey cow:

There are some 4,000 head of Jersey cattle in the island of which 2,500 are ‘in milk’, calving all year round to ensure a regular supply of milk to the farmer owned co-operative Jersey Dairy. 

Jersey Dairy processes approximately 14 million litres of raw milk each year and supplies the Island’s need for 9 million litres of fresh milk.  It also processes a range of other dairy products including butter, cream, yoghurt, cheese and ice cream. In 2010 Jersey Dairy moved to a new manufacturing facility which sits alongside the RJA&HS showground in Trinity. In recent years Jersey Dairy has exported to over 30 overseas markets including UHT milk in Hong Kong, butter in Japan and South Korea, and ice cream in mainland China and Philippines.

All of the Jersey cattle in the Island are pedigree registered in the Jersey Herd Book and there is a small population of crossbred beef animals reared for the local market.

The RJA&HS continually monitors the development of the breed to maintain breed characteristics and diversity in the Island herd, for further information follow the link to Breed Management. 

The ‘Jersey Royal’ potato:

This is a seasonal crop, planted from December through to February and harvested from April through to June. It is grown on some 17,000 vergées with the bulk of the crop exported to the UK mainland and distributed through the multiple retailers.  As an early variety, the export season relies on the critical six week period from the end of April to the beginning of June. The value of this crop represents approximately 95% of the value of all arable exports.

There are two main companies active in the export market, the Jersey Royal Potato Company and Albert Bartlett Ltd, with both having invested heavily in modern packing facilities to add value to the crop.

Other crops:

In addition to cows and potatoes there is a flourishing production base of vegetables and fruit for consumption in the Island.  There remains a significant industry exporting cut flowers, bedding plants and bulbs.  Many smaller scale primary producers supply the local market with a range of products including wine, cider, eggs, lamb, pork, beef, goat milk, mushrooms, watercress and herbs. 

 

Further reading:

The story of agriculture in the Island can be found in a book published by the RJA&HS entitled ‘Jerseys Rural Heritage - A Farming Way of Life’, copies of which are available from the Society.