Part of my role, as Head of Education and Development, is to help foster a connection to Jersey’s rural culture so that a sense of care and stewardship towards our rural culture is embraced by the next generation. In doing so, we also hope to engage and inspire the future generation to explore potential career opportunities within the agri-food industry. But why is Jersey’s rural culture something which we feel should be promoted to the next generation?
First and foremost, our rural culture represents our Heritage. As many of our farmers and growers today will know, it has taken many hands across many generations to have sustained our rich farming history. Echoing the words of Jersey Heritage - “Our Island story, is the narrative of our lives and those who came before us; providing context to who we are and the Island we live in”. Jersey’s rural heritage – farming and its community - represent the heart and soul of our Island story.
Today our farmers and growers, much like farmers 10,000 years ago here in Jersey were doing, have a willingness to adapt to changes in society by using technology and innovation, to ensure our farming industry continually improves. In the words of Justin Le Gresley from Anneville Farm, rural culture has often been an area where great innovation has occurred and driven other industries or technology forward. The agri-food industry is a term that combines the words agriculture and food to represent a holistic view of the activities involved in food production - what an incredibly exciting industry to encourage our young people to study, as a way of promoting skills development at a global and a local scale.
Only a month or so ago, supermarkets shelves were almost empty after a prolonged spell of bad weather stopped freight ships from delivering produce. As a result, shops had increased its orders of local produce. By teaching our young people the integral role farmers play in food security terms, we are supporting our farming industry and developing Jersey’s long-term resilience - helping islanders to feel prepared for potential future disruption to the island’s supply chain.
What does this actually mean? A simple definition I once used in a geography lesson was “Managing and caring for resources and people”. This prompted a fascinating discussion with the students that concluded first and foremost, we must manage and care for our resources, our land, air, water, crops and animals - then and only then we will be able to care for our people.
If we want our shared sense of care and stewardship to be embraced by the next generation, providing opportunities for our young people to form that connection to our rural culture - is absolutely key. If people don’t understand something, they can’t care for it. If they can’t identify with it, they don’t know it’s going or that it is gone. If you turn that on its head and look at it optimistically; the more one understands something, the more likely one will care for it and respect it and thus work together in order to protect it.
The more we therefore understand and appreciate what’s involved in farming and food production, the more we will value our rural culture.
The above picture epitomises community. Generations of families at our Summer Country Fair in 2019, learning about modern day sustainable fishing methods. Joe Baker from Number 10 Restaurant then performed a live cookery demonstration with the hand dived scallops that Josh Dearing had caught. Celebrating the interconnectedness of the food industries is fundamental to sustain our thriving island community and to understand Jersey’s place in the global community also.
Derrick Frigot will be very happy I am echoing his favourite fact but approximately 27 Jersey calves are born each day in Rwanda thanks to the pioneering project run in partnership between JOA, the Government of Rwanda, Send a Cow and the RJA&HS. This is a true reflection of co-operation and it is this co-operation between Jersey and Rwanda that can be taught to our young people to show, in the words of Deputy Carolyn Labey, what two countries can do when they work together as equals.
What do we want for our future and that of the next generation? We want a healthy and beautiful countryside, producing food that makes us healthier as individuals, in a society which has a healthier attitude towards the natural world, where we value the traditions and the virtues of rural life.
These Cultivate values help to explain why our rural culture is important and explain the vision of our educational Cultivate Programme. The Cultivate Programme, which is generously supported by the Howard Davis Farm Trust, aims to promote an awareness of our rural culture to the Island’s community, on behalf of the Society and the wider agri-food industry.