Rural – Jersey Country Life Magazine


Last September, a new farming and community event took place, concerned with the regeneration of farming and the rural community spirit. ALASDAIR CROSBY reprises this event, since the theme is also very much that of RURAL magazine. The article is adapted from articles in the Jersey Evening Post, where they first appeared, and reprinted with its kind permission

A rural community event, titled ‘ReGen Gathering’, which took place last September, is set to become a regular feature of the Island’s farming calendar and a forum for innovative ideas.

 It is focused on regenerative farming and the community. Like the ‘Groundswell’ regenerative agriculture event in Hertfordshire, which started very small and which now attracts thousands, it is hoped that that the Island’s Re-Gen Gathering will enjoy comparative growth and success.

In 2024, it is due to take place  on 20-21 September and there will be a ‘free feast’ for 500 on 28 September.

This is different and distinct from the Jersey Farming Conference in November. While the Conference focuses on the business of farming, the focus of Re-Gen is more on the rural community – its present state and  preservation in the future – and suggesting ways in which agriculture in Jersey could diversify and evolve in an era of change.

It was a free one-day event with panel discussions, workshops and demonstrations about innovative food and farming approaches that brought together a diverse range of people and ideas.

There were over 20 speakers, plus exhibitors and technical demonstrations,  building on the work of Jersey Government’s Rural Economic Framework, SCOOP (the Sustainable Cooperative) JICAS (Jersey International Centre of Advanced Studies), and members of the food and farming community across the Channel Islands.

Civil servant John Vautier, who is the senior lead for the Rural and Marine Economy in the Island (and a former farmer), said: ‘We initially thought an attendance of 20 or 30 people would be a good start – and look what has happened! 300 tickets reserved and standing room only.’

John Vautier

 Alan Le Maistre, who has recently become the chief executive of the Nation Trust for Jersey, but who still farms with his brother, Charles and cousin, John,  and on whose land in Trinity, ‘Le Tacheron Farm’, the event took place, said in his presentation at the start of the conference: ‘We love the heritage of Jersey. We want to see Jersey continue to farm and continue to preserve its rural environment.

‘For us, regeneration is also about regenerating the rural community. We want to be part of a vibrant rural community. We want to work together with large farms and with smaller farms like ours to give Jersey a more diversified farming future.

‘We hope this conference opens up a lot of debate; we hope it brings people together, and we hope that it will allow people to look forward positively to how we can  operate a more diversified and richer rural community, and bring in that collaboration and that Jersey spirit that has been the foundation of the Island’s farming for so many generations.’


Now for a little lesson in Jèrriais (this is important, so don’t skip this bit):

La grand’ Tchethue: this means ‘the big plough’. For its operation, it required not one, but a team of horses – perhaps between five and eight. It required, therefore, not just the implement, not just the animals or horsepower or the manpower, but that other essential element of Jersey’s agricultural success over the ages: it required co-operation.

La Grand’ Tchethue was a coming together of fiercely independent farmers, in family and neighbourly groups, pooling resources and working collectively to ensure not only their success, but also, at times, their very survival.

Therefore, it was also a colloquial phrase referring to a social event. The modern description, beloved of today’s teenagers, is ‘a gathering’. This is what the ReGen event was, actually: it was a gathering.

John Vautier said in a short speech to participants at the start of the ReGen event: ‘Our aspiration today is that we emulate the spirit of La Grand’ Tchethue, in that we come together  and discover how we can work better to pursue our collective interest.’

It was also the name of the on-site bar, which emphasised the social nature of the event in a convivial way. There was also music and food and a party spirit in the evening, after the presentations and demonstrations of the day had been concluded.

And, as one of the conference speakers said: ‘We want to put the fun back into farming.’

To quote Alan Le Maistre once again: ‘We love the heritage of Jersey. We want to see Jersey continue to farm and continue to preserve its rural environment. We are a smallholding but we are hoping for a more commercial future. For us, regeneration is also about regenerating the rural community. We want to be part of a vibrant rural community.’

That, perhaps, encapsulated what the day was about: farming, community, putting the fun back into farming and farming in harmony with the natural environment.  

So, plenty of food for thought, as well as plenty of locally-produced food to eat (from SCOOP).

This event in Jersey is very much part of a growing farming culture worldwide that emphasises small-scale local farm businesses, diversification in farming, the importance of developing local community and providing ‘local food for local people’.

At the same time as the Jersey event was taking place, a much larger conference event was taking place in Bristol, organised by ‘Local Futures’, the organisation founded by the author and activist Helena Norberg-Hodge. It is a pioneer of the worldwide localisation movement ,which raises awareness about the power of ‘going local’ as a key strategy for restoring ecological, social and spiritual wellbeing. Then there is the Groundswell annual event, which has been described as ‘the Glastonbury of the farming world.’ The annual ‘Real Farming Conference’ is run at the same time as the more orthodox ‘Oxford Farming Conference’ and now challenges it in terms of public interest and visitor numbers.

In other words, the Jersey ReGen event was by no means alone in delivering its message, and Government’s agricultural policy in Jersey is also broadly in favour of small-scale regenerative farm enterprises, as a way of restoring local food production, in the wake of Woodside Farm having to stop its provision of local food and a packaging and delivery service.

But as Alan Le Maistre said: there is room for all sorts of farming in the Island, for export-led potato growing and for the dairy sector as well as for innovative crops and ways of farming.  

And come what may, there was an encouraging sense of optimism in the future – even excitement – in the air at the ReGen event, which is not something that is universally evident in mainstream farming events.

Needless to say, the majority of Islanders would not benefit too much from the present volume of food supplies provided by a number of smallholders, each cultivating a few vegetables and selling these and perhaps some free-range eggs in an honesty box at their gateway. The success of this re-orientation in Government policy will only be successful if a hub can be established to facilitate collection, packaging and delivery to retail outlets.

But there again, the ReGen event was chock-full of ideas about farming futures. The concept of La grand’ Tchethue provides a thoughtful analogy for ways in which the farming sector can cooperate to bring change about – and regeneration of farming, land and community.  



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