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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. 

Our event

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. 

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