Over the centuries, Jersey has seen many changes in its agriculture. The 18th century saw the development of apple growing and the production of cider, which was largely replaced by the potato market in the 19th and 20th centuries. To this day, the Jersey Royal remains a mainstay crop in our island's agriculture. Of course we can’t forget the famous Jersey cow, which became part of the global cattle industry in the 19th century and has retained global presence ever since. Globally agriculture has become increasingly more industrialised, relying on the use of synthetic chemicals. Although not to the same extent as many countries, Jersey’s agriculture in no exception.
There are numerous concerns regarding the intensification of agriculture, including the loss of nutrients from the soil, loss of natural areas for increasing agricultural production, and increases of pollutants, particularly pesticides and fertilisers which are known to have detrimental effects on wildlife and ecosystems. The problem now lies in creating enough food for the ever expanding population and reducing the environmental impacts of that production. Organic farming is one avenue being explored. Broadly speaking, the environmental impacts of organically farmed meat and produce are lower than industrialised farming. In Jersey, Vermont Farm, St Brelade, has been certified an organic producer by the Soil Association.
Vermont Farm produces a variety of organic fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. Central to the farm’s success in retaining their organic certification is crop rotation, a method that involves alternating different crops or livestock on a piece of land. Compared to monoculture farming, which dominates agriculture today, rotation has numerous environmental benefits such as increasing the health and structure of the soil so it retains nutrients more effectively, reducing the need for fertilisers. Rotation can also reduce pesticide use as it controls weeds, insect and pest infestations as well as disease. At Vermont Farm, fields are grassed every four years with a mix that includes white clover. This works as a nitrogen fixer, creating natural fertility in the soil. Saddleback pigs are put onto each field for one year in every four. Living off the land by foraging and a supplementary diet of wheat kernels, also grown organically on the farm, the pigs further enhance the fertility of the soil through their manure. This is just an example of some of the methods used by Vermont Farm that has earned them certification as an organic farm, and to sell organically certified produce at their farm.
This autumn, Vermont Farm hosted a ‘walk and talk’ event for Jersey in Transition. To find out more about these and other Jersey in Transition events, you can find Jersey in Transition on Facebook, or sign up for the monthly newsletters jit[at]mistweb[dot]net
Even better, pop along to the next Green Drinks – No agenda, no hassle. Just a chance for eco-minded friends to get together for a monthly natter over a few drinks. The next Green Drinks will be at the Town House, St Helier on Wednesday 21st November 2012.
This article originally appeared in “The Jersey Life” Magazine (print only) as part of a mini-series on Jersey in Transition
Image: Five British saddleback pigs are helping clear woodland undergrowth in Ampfield Wood, Sir Harold Hillier Gardens. Credit: Rob Young/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)