The Agriculture of the Islands of Jersey (2)

By C.P. Le Cornu, Beaumont, Jersey. Price Essay. 1859

Limited as may appear the agriculture of Jersey, it has nevertheless attracted, in several instances, the atention of strangers. In the fall of 1856 the Agricultural Society of the Department of "La Seine Inférieure," in France, deputed two learned members of that society to the island, in order to report particularly on the process followed in the manufacturing of cider, and also to collect information on the general system of farming practised. The report appeared in the French language some time after, under the title of "Excursion Agricole à Jersey, par M.M.J. Girardin, Professor de Chimie à l`Ecole Départementale de la Seine Inférieure, et J. Molière,  Professor d`Agriculture du Département du Calvados". In giving an account of their visit to Jersey, the writers dwell particularly on the varieties of apples used for cider-making, and the manner in which it is made, and observe that some of the cider which they had occasion to taste was far preferable to anything they had met with in France. On the rotation of crops they say:

1st. A great proportion of land is devoted to the cultivation of roots and grass, or what is necessary for the maintenance of cattle.

2nd. That only one sort of grain (i.e. wheat) is grown.

3rd. That by growing so large a proportion of root-crops the soil receives the greatest possible advantage it can obtain, either in manure from the extra number of cattle kept, or in cleanliness from the great attention which root-crops demand.

4th. That the great variety of food given to cattle tends greatly to keep them in a better state of health.

5th. That by the system followed, a larger proportion of cattle can be maintained than by that which is followed in the northern departments of France.

In conclusion , they speak of the Jersey cow in the highest terms, and admit its pre-eminence for richness of milk over the best of theirs; for whereas in Jersey from thirteen to sixteen quarts of milk are sufficient to make two lbs. of butter, they admit that not less than twenty-eight quarts of milk of their best cows are required to make the same quantity. Whether it be through delicatesse or otherwise, MM Girardin and Molière in their report throw out no suggestion on the art of farming which the Jerseyman might with advantage make applicable to himself: still I am led to believe that some changes might advantageously take place; for instance, among the list of imports is an item which formerly was one of the principal exports of the island, -I refer to the potato: of late years the farmer, anxious to grow varieties of this plant which would give a heavy return in weight per acre, forgot that it was necessary to maintain good quality, otherwise the sale of his produce would be lost. Now French potatoes are imported: true it is that as yet the qunatity is small, but within two years it has increased rapidly, and from all appearances it is likely to become important; these potatoes are sold at a cheaper rate than those grown in the island, and their quality is preferred by many. No doubt that France can outvie the island in the cheapness of produce, but it should not be so in quality; let the Jersey farmer cultivate only the good sorts, and look to Covent Garden for their sale; backed as he is by Nature in every respect, if he but study early productiveness he can dispose of his produce at prices which will remunerate him far better than growing later sorts for foreign markets.

Before the existence of Free-Trade the Channel Islands were privileged, inasmuch as their produce entered the British ports free from duty, but at present they have to compete against all  the world; and whereas corn was formerly exported to Britain, now on the contrary corn is imported into the islands; there is no doubt whatever that they have all suffered from the change; but it is singular that the value of land in Jersey has not diminished, the population has increased, and the demands for the island itself are great. On the subject of corn it is possible that much benefit might be derived by the introduction of new sorts of wheat. The "Velousé" and "Petit Blanc" have been known in the island for a very long period, since which, no doubt, new varieties have been raised, that might with greater advantage be grown here; but on this, as well as on all that is connected with farming, the agriculturists is so bigoted and wedded to his ancient customs as to think improvement almost impossible.


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