By the president of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society, Robert Perchard
AGRICULTURE was quite rightly deemed as ‘essential’ in the Government of Jersey’s strategy to tackle coronavirus, playing a vital role in supplying the Island with much of its fresh food and dairy produce. Furthermore, the growing of crops and tending of livestock cannot simply be turned on and off like flicking a switch, the work on the farms has to go on in some shape or form.
Nevertheless, to conform with government measures for social distancing and movement controls, farmers have had to make certain adjustments to work patterns and staff deployment. For instance, dairy farmers are required to set a two metre minimum distance between workers and where that is not always possible (for example in milking parlours) other control measures have been adopted such as the wearing of facemasks, gloves and other PPE as necessary. Thorough and regular handwashing is de rigeur and all dairies have hand sterilizer dispensers for anyone entering or leaving the premises. Many farm staff are provided with accommodation on site and, with movement off the premises restricted, the risk of introducing the virus has been reduced as far as possible. And, in any case, farm work is often a solitary business, often with hours spent working alone or in a tractor cab.
Springtime is an exceptionally busy period on a dairy farm; besides the twice daily milking and day to day care of the cattle this is the time of year when fields are cultivated and sown with forage crops for the year ahead. The grass grows quickly and farmers take cuts of silage and hay when fine weather allows. So, a pretty busy time for all involved. But it is the best time in my mind, with the buzz of insects and the arrival of the swallows, the hedgerows burgeoning with grasses and wild flowers; new growth everywhere and the glorious unfurling of the trees as they dress themselves once again in their canopy of tissue-soft new leaves.
Saying that, the coronavirus pandemic has cast a horrid cloud over everything and the repercussions will linger for a long time. Will life ever be the same, will things return to the ‘normal’ we have become accustomed to? Will the trappings of modern life, which we have all come to enjoy and take for granted, be sustainable in the years to come? These are not easy questions to answer but one thing I am certain of is: – how fortunate we are to live in a place such as Jersey.
If there is any good to come out of the coronavirus outbreak it may be that it will have brought home to everyone the fundamental importance of Jersey’s wonderful countryside, its farming and the value of its local produce.