William Church, The Jersey Royal Company, Jersey
The Jersey Royal Company and its predecessors has been established for over 25 years, growing, packing and supplying the internationally recognised and protected Jersey Royal new potato to a wide number of retailers in the UK. Farming around 8,300 vergées (1,600 ha) annually across 1,500 fields, and employing around 450 staff, they produce and pack approximately 20,000 tonnes per year. They have opened for LEAF Open Farm Sunday since 2016 and here, William Church, Sales and Marketing Director, explains the reasons why they got involved in LEAF Open Farm Sunday and the benefits it has brought…
Potato production | Jersey
In the public eye
Farming is so visual in Jersey and very much in the public eye, it’s part of all our lives. Everyone has an opinion about what they eat and how its grown. A third of the cultivatable land-mass here on Jersey is used to grow Jersey Royal new potatoes – their production has a big impact on everyone living on the Island because everyone, at some point, will have seen a field or followed a tractor full of Jersey Royals! We’re a small, close knit community and really proud of our potato growing heritage so, for us, opening for LEAF Open Farm Sunday is a wonderful opportunity for people to see at first-hand how they are grown and ask all the questions they think they know the answers to!
The opportunity for any farm to open is brilliant. Being able to meet our customers face to face, talk to them about how Jersey Royals are grown, how farmers protect soil and water, enhance wildlife habitats and conserve energy, as well as touching on issues such as seasonal labour is invaluable. It is also a brilliant way of engaging with young children and the event resonates really well with young families looking for something different to do.
Ours is very much a free open day, rather than a ‘fun event’. We don’t place a limit on numbers, encouraging people to drop in and stay for as long as they want, ask questions and hand pick some free samples. We advertise using the free posters from LEAF in parish halls, the tourist information office, local radio stations and Facebook but it’s word of mouth that’s been the biggest driver to the 50% visitor increase we saw in our second year. We are now looking at ways to engage with local retailers.
In terms of activities, we laid out machinery in a harvested potato field and mocked up a planting situation, showing people different harvesting methods and they were also able to have a go on the harvester. We also offered guided tours of the pack house with potato cooking and tasting – always very popular!
A Team Effort
I do most of the planning beforehand with a small team but on the day itself most of our office staff help out – it’s great for teambuilding!. They are involved in all aspects of the event from selling ice creams, taking bookings for the packhouse tours, guiding and chatting to visitors. Our Health and Safety Director will assess potential hazards including roping off car parking areas, controlling traffic flow, providing high visibility vests for visitors on the harvester and ensuring people don’t walk unaccompanied around the farm site.
Our Commitment to Sustainable Farming
Sharing knowledge about how we produce Jersey Royals sustainably is a big part of our event. We want the public to know about the care and commitment of our growers to farming with environmental care. We have a small marquee with information for visitors about LEAF, water and soil management and how we are embracing biological methods to control pests and diseases and build up fertility. We always get lots of questions and some great discussions around the whole growing process, environmental issues and the countryside in general. There’s always a fantastic buzz and it is so good to be able to hear their views and talk to people about issues that matter most to them.
The Feel-Good Factor
There are so many positives about running an Open Farm Sunday event. Seeing the smiles on kids’ faces is one of the highlights – it’s brilliant. There is a real feel good-factor especially for the staff who aren’t public facing as it gives them the opportunity to see it all going on. Plus, there is no better advert for the company.
Just do it!
My advice to anyone thinking about running an Open Farm Sunday event is just do it! Plan ahead, keep it uncomplicated (no bouncy castles!). Just open up your farm and if you’ve got a dry area in case it rains with information for visitors to read, then that’s a bonus. Keep it simple, don’t spread it over a wide area and try to have a demonstration of the key points of interest on your farm. It’s really that easy, just do what feels right for you.
Sign up to our mailing list(s)
You are now subscribed!
You are signed up to the mailing list(s) you selected.