It is with sadness, frustration and anger that we have learnt the news that Jersey’s largest independent, and family run, farm is to cease growing flowers and (most importantly for local consumers) vegetables. Despite being warned by farmers and politicians alike, this government has presided over the totally unnecessary demise of a farm that has been, for decades, a leader and innovator in the independent agricultural sector, and the marketing of flowers, bulbs and vegetables. It is truly sad that yet another Jersey farming family have taken the hugely difficult decision to close their farming business. It is equally frustrating that this could have been avoided had this government just kept their eye on the ball. One can only get increasingly angry that Jersey agriculture, as an industry, has been pretty much forgotten by this Council of Ministers in the last 4 years.
Woodside Farms had been for some years now Jersey’s only wholesale producer of main crop potatoes, onions, carrots, and a whole range of other market crops such as parsley, broccoli, cabbage, greens and leeks. They also grew indoor crops, mainly peppers, chilies and flowers, and have been the main exporters of Jersey daffodils, and daffodil bulbs, since the ‘80s.
A combination of Covid and “red tape” has finally led to the decision to close the Woodside growing business. Despite every other industry receiving government aid to help them through the Covid crisis, farmers have had nothing. The industry have had no help to see them through this pandemic. They’ve been expected to cope on their own, despite continuing their work out in the fields, producing vegetable crops, every single day since the pandemic broke.
When the widely supported decision to move quickly towards a “living wage” was made, that decision came with inevitable consequences for farming. That decision, to make significant increases to the minimum wage in the short term, was made with the clear understanding that a way had to be found to help Agriculture through the huge increase in costs that would result. Everyone knew that, along with the other increases in holiday entitlement and rest breaks, the combined result would be double digit percentage increases in costs for farmers. What has been done about this? The answer is, “nothing”.
There should have been a concerted and speedy effort by government to find ways to help get the farming industry through these challenges. The solution was, and still is, modifications to agricultural social security contributions. Other assistance could be through reduced harbour dues, and increases in productivity incentives. It’s not rocket science and is easy to resolve, and it should happen immediately…it should have happened four years ago!
The Gallichan family have been farming since the 1800s. Five generations have farmed continuously from their base in Trinity. It is sad reflection on the state of the farming industry, and Woodside Farms in particular, that we are where we are today. Some small initiatives from government in the last few months are far too little, and have come far too late. We have to do more to keeping farming alive, and we need to do it now.
Agriculture has been all but forgotten by this government…but WE mustn’t, and can’t afford to, forget farmers. Let’s hope we can all remember who keeps our wonderful Jersey countryside a green and pleasant land to live in…and, most importantly, which industry puts food on our tables twelve months of the year.