A letter from Karl Jensen, Valhalla, Jersey (1996)

The Jersey Dairy Industry


A letter from Karl Jensen written to Hans Nørgaard in 1996. (Karl Jensen died on October 31th 2001) 


Anne Perchard, Karl Jensen and wife, Doris and Hans Nørgaard (1995)

karljensen-06.jpgThe first cooperatives in Jersey`s milk industry was introduced by my father in 1907, he was sent over to Jersey by Jørgen Larsen, the first importer of Jerseys to Denmark. Before coming to Jersey he had been the manager of the dairy in Lønstrup near Hjallerup. I was born at Raunstrup Dairy in 1906. It was because of what my father did for the Jersey farmer that I was asked to build the island dairy. I was given a lump sum of money and asked to build them a dairy, which I did and I think every dairy in England sent their managers over to see it and I have many letters from these visitors and the average said that it was 10 years ahead of anything in the UK, also many from France. But thats a long story. 


Now a little about how things went on 100 years ago. The farmers around the outskirts of the town had no trouble to sell milk, small shops would fetch the farmers milk and sell it to the people who came to the shops with their jugs. The farmers who were too far away from the town would make butter and bring it into town and sell it in the market on a saturday. All that  stopped when my father started the coop dairy, he took all the surplus milk and made into butter. I must tell you this story. There was a woman who every saturday came to the dairy the back way  with a children pram and we used to make up for her 100 pounds of our butter with her prints, it said Mrs. Dupre St. Mary. I have been told many times that Mrs. Dupres butter was the best farm butter in Jersey.

karljensen-03.jpgIn Jun 1978 Mr. Karl Jensen retired as chief executive officer of Jersey Maid Ltd., an ice-cream production plant owned by the Jersey Milk Marketing Board and Lyons Maid Ltd.

At the turn of the century a man called Jensen travelled from Denmark to Jersey.
 Mr. Karl Jensen is best known as the mastermind behind the Island's dairy at Five Oaks. He designed it, watched it built and ran it for many years.

Mr. Jensen's involvement with the dairy industry in Jersey can be traced directly to his father who, in 1907-08, was among a party of men from Denmark who travelled in Jersey to buy cows.
At that time the Danish dairy industry was pulling itself out of the doldrums, farmers were forming themselves into cooperatives and building their own dairies.
There was a premium on milk with a good butterfat content and Jersey cows with a high yield of butterfat, were a natural acquisition.

Jersey farmers became interested in the cooperative dairy and Mr. Jensen was asked by a group of farmers to build a dairy for them.
The result was the Jersey Dairy Cooperative in Don Street, which Mr. Jensen ran for many years.
As a professor of languages he wanted his children to learn Danish, and so at the age of 13 Karl was sent back to Denmark.
After his schooling he returned to Jersey and became a marine engineering apprentice with Grandins at the docks. But a yearning to see the world took him to America on a cattle boat in 1922.
He ended up in Detroit where he worked for the Studebaker Corporation. There he studied high-speed machine work and went to evening school four nights a week to qualify as a mechanical and refrigeration engineer.
At about the time of the American depression Mr. Jensen's father was taken seriously ill and Karl returned to Jersey.
On his return he married Miss Doris Fossey, a farmer's daughter from Trinity, and worked for a while as a mechanic at Falle's Garage, owned by his brother in law.
Shortly after he went to work with his father, who had recovered.
At the outbreak of war he went to the UK and worked for Lightfoot Engeneering, a company which produced much of the refrigeration equipment used in ships in the tropics.
After the war, Mr. Jensen walked into Germany behind the Army as part of the British Control Commission which was to take over and reactivate major industry in Germany, as well as the de-Nazify the workers.
He went as part of a team of 300 and returned five years later, virtually the last man out.
On his return to Jersey he found the dairy industry under States control. Dairies had been taken over during the Occupation, but plans to hand them back were made difficult as the dairies were being heavily subsidized and no one could afford to take them over again.
But a group of farmers did ask him to take over his father's old dairy with the ultimate aim of forming a new, single dairy for the whole Island.
Pasturization and bottling laws passed by the States after the war made a single dairy the only real economic alternative.
dairyfiveoaks-01.jpgEventually a group of 14 farmers gave Mr. Jensen the job of creating the dairy. Unimpressed with British dairies of the day he went to Denmark, where by now some of the most advanced dairying techniques in the world were in operation.
He stole the best ideas and ordered all the equipment for the new dairy from Denmark. The dairy at Five Oaks was born.
He first became manager and engineer and later rose to general manager and secretary.
Just before his 65th birthday and his plans to retire, he was reminded that an ice cream production plant was part of the original scheme.
Retirement forgotten, he saw the building of the plant and forged a partnership with Lyon Maid to sell ice cream through the Channel Islands.






karljensen-01.jpgAfter retiring engineering was still very much in Mr. Jensen's blood and one room at his Grouville home was taken over as a workshop where he pursued his hobby of engineering in miniature.

Karl Jensen died on October 31th 2001.

From article published in Jersey at Home

All photos in colours taken by Niels Damsgaard

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