By William E. Bear -Journal of Royal Agricultural Society. 1888
Visits to the Channel Islands during the seed-time and harvest of the most important crops; a careful inspection of some of the best farms, fruit grounds, herds, and dairies; interviews with some of the highest resident authorities upon the several branches of agriculture and fruit-growing; a persistent quest for information from all sorts and conditions of men met in my wanderings; and a careful study of official reports, books, and essays relating to my subject: these are the grounds upon which I venture to offer a few observations on the present condition of farming in those Isles of the Blest, which lie so close to France, and yet, happily, form part of the British Empire.
The present condition of any industry may be realised most clearly as a mental picture by comparison with the past condition of that industry; and , fortunately, I have no need to go beyond the volumes of the "Journal" for an excellent account of the state of farming in the Channel Islands twenty-nine years ago. It was in 1859 that the prize essay written by Mr. (now Colonel) C.P. Le Cornu, a native of and resident in Jersey, appeared in this periodical (Vol. XX., Part I., First Series), and it will be interesting to note some of the most striking of the changes which have taken place since that period. As there are great differences in the systems of farming pursued in the several islands, it will be best to deal with each separately.
ALthough by far the largest of the islands, Jersey has an area of about 62 square miles only, the extreme length from east to west being 12 miles, and the greatest breadth about 7 miles. The toal area is given in the Agricultural Returns as 28.717 acres, of which 20.561 acres were returned in 1887 as under crops, bare fallow, and grass. A foot-note, however, explains that some of the land is returned twice when two crops are grown on it in the same year; while, on the other hand, another note states that the acreage of woodlands i snot ascertained. The corresponding cultivated area in 1859 is not given in the prize essay, but appears in the first complete collection of Agricultural Returns, in 1867, as 20.357 acres, of only about 200 acres less than in 1887. It cannot be supposed that the double return of acreage is made at all commonly, for, if it were, the cultivated area would come out much larger than itdoes; the growth of two crops in the same year on the arable land being the rule rather than the eexception. According to a return of the acreage occupied by owners and tenants respectively, there were 19.626 acres of occupied land in 1887.
From causes which I have not seen explained, the population of Jersey has diminished since 1851, when it was 57.020; the number returned at the census of 1881 having been 52.445. Between 1871 and 1881 there appears to have been a decrease of population in all but two of the twelve parishes into which the island is divided. If this decrease stood alone, it might, perhaps, be accounted for by the fact that the population was temporarily swollen by French refugees during the France-German War; but as there was a fall between 1851 and 1861, and, in spite of a rise in 1871, a further fall between 1861 and 1881, this explanation is not sufficient. The point is of immediate interest in connection with my subject, because the decrease in population during a period of great prosperity in Jersey seems to show that the tendency to the subdivision of landed property fostered by law, which forbids the willing of land and requires its division among all the children of a decreased owner, has been counteracted by sensible family arrangements.
Whether the land is more or less subdivided than it was when Colonel Le Cornu wrote his prize essay, I am not able positively to determine; but, probably, it may be concluded from the evidence just cited that there is not much difference. At any rate, the average size of a holding is small enough; for, according to the Official Return of 1887, the 19,626 acres of occupied land were divided among 2,646 occupiers, partly owners and partly tenant, or in the ratio of almost exactly 7½ acres per occupier. In 1859, Colonel Le Cornu wrote:
"Very many houses will be found to which only 2 or 3 acres are attached, whilst others have 20 og 30; but an estate which contains 15 acres is by no means considered a small one, and rarely do any exceed 50 to 60 acres; there may, perhaps, be six or eight such in the whole island".
This statement, I believe, holds good for the present time, except that I could not hear of as many as six or eight farms of 50 acres and upwards. A farm of 50 vergées (2¼ to the acre), or abot 22 acres, is reckoned a large one; and the owner of 106 vergées (47 acres), which he cultivated till he let half of the land, informed me that he knew of only one larger farm in his part of the island.
The law as to the succession to landed property is as follows: The eldelst son takes as his birthright the house and premises, with a little more than two acres of land adjoining, and about twenty Jersey perches, or two-ninths of an imperial acre, for every man he is found by ancient law to provide in case of war. The rest of the property is valued in rents, and the eldelst son takes one-tenth, the remainder being shared, two-thirds among the sons, including the eldest, and on-third among the daughters. When there is only one son he takes all that is above referred to as going to the eldest and other sons. When the number of daughters is so small that each, if more than one, would get more property than each of the sons, the latter can insist upon equal division. Even during a life, a father cannot give to any child more land than would come to him or her under the law of inheritance, and any gift of the kind, if excessive, can be annulled within one year of the father`s death.
The law of mortgage is so curious that it may be briefly mentioned. In the event of an estate being over-mortgaged, the last mortgagee can only recover his money by taking up the estate and engaging to pay off all the burdens upon it. Should he refuse, he loses all claim to the sum he has advanced; and the estate is offered to the next mortgage on the same terms, and so on till it finds a proprietor. As all mortgages are registered, it is contended that there is no hardship in this law, because each successive mortgagee knows what burdens there are upon the estate, and if he risks his money in increasing them, he does so with his eyes open, and it is only just that he should not be able by his folly to diminish the security of earlier mortgagees. Not so defensible is the law which makes all parts of the property of a landowner jointly and severally liable for his debts of any kind, even including portions leased or sold: so that the creditors can come upon the property of the leaseholder or the buyer if necessary in order to recover their dues.
The most common methods of paying for land purchased greatly facilitates is acquisition by men of small capital. The purchaser usually pays at least one-fourth of the price of the land, and the rest can be paid in what are termed quarters of rent, equivalent to a mortgage, but saleable in the open makret at a fixed rate of interest, a fraction over 4 per cent. There are old rents (rentes, more like stocks than what are commonly understood by rents in ENgland) of 18 pounds a quarter, and new rents of 20 pounds a quarter. Formerly the old rents were nontransferable, and worth 16 pounds a quarter; but some times ago they were made transferable at 18 pounds. The security for old rents is on all the real property of the borrower; whereas on new rents it is on only the particular piece of property of the borrower; whereas on new rents it is on only the particular piece of property mortgaged. SO long as the purchaser of the land pays the interest on the quarters he cannot be dispossessed, and he can at any time partly or wholly redeem his property from the burden upon it by buying up some or the whole of the rents. This he can do when and to any extent that may suit his convenience; while the money can never be called in, as it can be in the case of a mortgage.
Before referring to the prices at which land in Jersey is sold and let, it may perhaps be desirable to say a few words about the character of the soil and the climate. In a considerable work on the Channel Islands, published in 1862 by W.H. Allen & Co., of London, the authors (D.T. Ansted, M.A. Fr.R.S., and Robert Gordon, M.D., F.R.S.), after describing at great length the geological formations of the islands, say:
"In all the underlying rocks of the various islands there would seem to be a total absence of phosphorus, without which the cultivation of food-plants is impossible. Potash, also, is either present in small proportion, or in a form not readily separated. There does not seem to be any organic matter present, except that derived from animal life now or recently at the surface. However rapidly, therefore, the soils obtained from these rocks become decomposed, and however well resulting soils may look, there is clearly no natural and large supply of certain ingredients essential for food crops. All these must be supplied from without in the form of manure, either animal, vegetable, or mineral.
The latter (querry the last?) not being available, it results that without a large and constant supply of animal and vegetable manures, the soil of the islands could not be kept in such a state as to yield large crops of the most valuable kinds of vegetable produce. It is clear, therefore, that, in spite of all statements that have been made to the contrary, the soil in the islands cannot properly be regarded as naturally rich" (p. 465)
The writer support these statements by eloborate details as to the constituents of the rocks from which the soils of the islands have been formed. On the other hand , the writer of the prize essay says that "although situated on a rocky bed, the soil of Jersey is particularly rich and highly productive." This might be the case, and yet not in conflict with the statements above quoted, for soils not naturally productive may be made so by man. Colonel Le COrnu, however, says:
"The rock is of the primary formation, void of any organic remains, chiefly granite, syenite, gneiss, porphyry, and schist, with other varieties belonging to this series. It might be supposed that the fact of the soil reposing on so rocky a bottom might produce meagreness, but it is not the case. The soil is a rich loam, varying in lightness according to the stratum beneath it; if granite or syenite, it is lighter than where the other varieties of rock are found. The cause to which this difference is attributable is, that immediately between the granite and cultivated soil is a layer of coarse gravel, which acts as constant drainage, whereas when the granite and syenite disappear no gravel is found, but a light clay forms the layer between the soil and the rock. As a general rule, the eastern district of the island may be said to belong to the latter formation, and the western to the former, but in both cases there are exceptions. For certain kinds of produce the one is more esteemed than the other, but the universal opinion throughout the island is that the eastern district is the richest and most productive."
In the report of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society for 1887 analyses are given of three specimens of Jersey soil, made by Mr. F. Woodland Toms, the States (of Jersey) analyst, and M. Laurot, analyst of the Laboratory of Granville. One sample was from a drilling-ground in the southwest, another from a similar ground in the north-west (both described as "virgin soils"), and the third from heavy pasture land in the eastern district, The samples were taken as representing the light, medium, and heavy soils of the island. A square block, one foot in depth, was used in each case, and it was found that the subsoil for the next ten feeth in depth was in each instance of similar texture to the surface soil, which was very free from stones. The analyses are given below:
Compositions of Dry Soils per cent
First 12 Inches
| || || || |
| ||St. Peter`s || St. Mary`s||St. Saviour`s |
|Soluble in weak acids || No. I|| No.II || No III |
| 1 Organic matter, &c.|| 3.590 || 3.760 || 3.980 |
| Oxide of iron || 610|| 1.724 || 2.245 |
| Alumina || 372|| 1.497 || 1.403 |
| Lime || 236 || 187 || 576|
| Magnesia || 148|| 291|| 200|
| Potash || 086 || 114|| 158|
| Soda || 328|| 355|| 537|
| Phosphoric acid || 128 || 131|| 195|
| Sulphuric acid || 182|| 236|| 184|
| Chlorine || 009|| 011|| 009|
| Carbonic acid || trace|| trace|| trace|
| Soluble silica || 079|| 080|| 084|
| || || || |
| Insoluble in acids|| || || |
| Hydrated silica || 2.500 || 2.780 || 6.100 |
| Insoluble silicates and quartz || 91.732 ||88.834 || 84.329 |
| || 100.000 ||100.000 || 100.000 |
| || || || |
| 1) Nitrogen in organic matter || 122|| 136|| 141|
| Nitrogen as nitrates (per |
| 2.108 || 1.650 || 6.45 |
| || || || |
These analyses do not convey the idea of any high degree of natural fertility, though No. III is much superior to the two others, and No. II is rather better than No. I All three are deficient in lime og potash, and in only one is there a good proportion og phosphoric acid. As to the organic matter, soldiers drilling-grounds can scarcely be quite like "virgin soils", and the old pasture certainly is not so. They are all soils, however, which can be worked with more or less facility; while two of them are so constituted as to retain moisture fairly, and one so as to retain fertilising material applied to it.
The "lay of the land" in Jersey is all that could be desired, as it is a gradual slope downwards form the north to the south, and this greatly enhances the value of the soil, and promotes the early vegetation for which the island is famous.
Of the climate there is no necessity to say much, as it is well known to be excellent. There is seldom much snow, and often none at all during the winter, and severe frost is uncommon. During last winter and spring there was more snow, and greater damage occurred from frost, than had been known for several years. The rainfall is abundant, especially in winter, and the island seldom suffers from drought even in summer.
Whatever the natural resources of the soil of Jersey may be, it is certain that it has been brought to a state of high fertility. I have never so fully realised the idea of a country "smiling" with an abundant produce, and with a general air of prosperity, as when, in the latter part of June, I walked or drove through the beautiful valleys and over the scarcely less charming plains of Jersey. Bad as the season had been, the comparatively few pieces of wheat were in ear, and almost without exception good standing crops, where not absolutely heavy; while the potato tops were a yard high, and so thick that the rows could not be distinguished. Splendid crops of hay and "seeds" were being cut or carried, and the tethered cows looked sleek and well fed.
But not even the abundance of the produce of the soil, or the evidence of careful enterprise bestowed on every spot, strikes the visitor familiar with the rural districts of England so forcibly as the wonderfully prosperous aspect of the dwellings of the people. There are scarcely any cottages in Jersey, for the smallest of the farmers, as a rule, live in comfortable granite houses, with well-kept flower and vegetable gardens attached to them. The people themselves, too, have an air of contentment and independence which is pleasing to behold.
The climate, no doubt, does great things for Jersey; but the marvellous industry and enterprise of the people do more. The rents which those of them who hire land pay, and the prices which buyers give for land, suffice to assure even persons who have not visited the island that a vast quantity of produce is got out of the soil. When Colonel Le Cornu wrote his essay, he gave 4 pound 10s. to 9 pound as the range of rents. The present range for cultivable land may be put at 7 pound to 15 pound. It must be very poor land that does not let at more than 3 pound a vergée, or 6 pound 15s. an acre. The only farm which I saw that I had reason to suppose was let at less than 7 pound an acre was one containing a large proportion of woodland; but there are, no doubt, a few others equally poor and low-rented - as rents go in Jersey. As to the prices given for the fee-simple, som actual instances of recent sales may be cited.
Mr. Joshua Le Gros, Secretary of the Jersey Herd Book Society, a Jersey farmer of great experience, to whom I am indebted for a great deal of valuable information, and for the courtesy with which he accompanied me in som excursions and directed me in others, sold a farm of about twenty-three acres this year at 263 pound an acre. He has since bought a small farm of six acres, with a good house and premises upon it, at 180 pound a vergée (2¼ vergées to the acre), or 405 pound an acre. In this case the residence counts for a good deal; but Mr. Le Gros estimated that the land alone would have realised 140 pound a vergée, or 315 pound an acre. The farm is about a mile and a half from St. Heliers, and it contains a little terraced land well suited for the growth of early potatoes.
To take another instance. Mr. Philip Lefeuvre, of St. Owens informed me that he had recently bought 4½ vergées of land for 500 pound, or at the rate of about 250 pound an acre. This is in the west of the island, where the soil is less rich than it is in the east or in the vicinity of St. Heliers. The price, however, was considered exceptionally high for the district. Again, Mr. Gaunt, of St. Saviour`s, in the east of the island, told me of a farm of 39 vergées sold the other day in his district for 3.550 pound, or at about 206 pound an acre. For his own estate of 106 vergées, bought many years ago, he paid 80 pound a vergée, or 180 pound an acre; and he assured me that he could since have made a profit of 2.000 pound if he had been disposed to get rid of his land. He has recently let half of his land at 10 pound 12s. 6d. an acre, but could have had over 11 pound if he had chosen to invite competition. Such an extreme rent as 15 pound, I may explain, is obtained for very favourably situated spots not far from St. Heliers, and for small pieces of very good ground; slopes of land facing the south or southeast, known as côtils , upon which potatoes can be produced very early, are the most valuable spots in the island when the soil is good.
It will be noticed that interest at a little over 4 per cent., on even such high prices for the fee-simple of land as are given above, would not come to as much as the highest of the rents on land let to tenants. Perhaps this can partly be explained by the existence of burdens upon owners that tenants escape; but apart from that consideration, there is, no doubt, a much greater competition for the hiring of land than for its purchase. There would be nothing surprising in such a state of things under ordinary circumstances; but in Jersey there are special circumstances to be considered. Numbers of French labourers, who come to the island for the potato harvest and save money, are anxious competitors for small farms, and will pay almost any rent for them. They may or may not be in a position to pay the small sum neede as a deposit on purchasing land; but there is a more serious difficulty in the way, for no foreigner can become possessed of land in Jersey until he has been naturalised as a British subject, and naturalisation is allowed only after several years` residence, and very charily even then. The authoririties are not pleased at seeing the land more and more occupied by Frenchmen, and they are not at all disposed to facilitate the acquisition of rights of purchase by the foreigners.
Every one must regret to see the fine race of Jersey farmers - men whose ancestors have held land in the island since long before the Norman Conquest - diminishing in number as they are. There is no doubt that rents have been forced up to an extrevagant extent by the eager competition of Brittany peasants who have been trained in the art of living on next to nothing, and who can therefore maintain themselves and their families upon meagre profits which would not content Jerseymen. Under such circumstances, young Jerseymen who inherit land are tempted to let it, and to supplement the income which they thus obtain by engaging in commercial or other pursuits. Many of them shrink from the unremitting and arduous labour in which their parents have spent their lives, and which they have shared during their boyhood.
It may be suggested that those of them who own moderately large farms, or what are deemed such in Jersey, might farm the land without working constantly upon it; but the universal testimony in the island is that this would not do, as it is only by working with the few men he employs that the Jersey farmer can thrive. Many ENglish farmers have bought or hired land in the island, and attempted to farm it after the English easygoing fashion; but no one has succeeded. The only ENglishman who has been successful as a farmer in Jersey, I was assured, is Mr. John Gaunt, of St. Saviour`s, who came to the island for his health many years ago, after having been successfully engaged in commerce in England. But Mr. Gaunt has succeeded by doing as the Jersey farmers do. On the occasion of my last visit to him he had been to St. Heliers, nearly four miles distant, with one cartload of potatoes to be shipped, and was getting ready for a second journey. He is over seventy, and a rich man without family; yet he declares that when he gives up work he will give up farming.
It must not be supposed, however, that there is anything suggestive of penury in the style of living which the larger Jersey farmers adopt. On the contrary, the houses and appointments, interior and exterior, of many a Jersey farmer holding (and generally owning) twenty acres of land, strike the visitor as superior to those of most English farmers of two hundred acres. After finding the Jersey farmer at work in the field with his men, it is somewhat surprising to a stranger to be conducted by him into a drawing-room fitted up with all the modern decorations found in a middle-class suburban residence. There is not much "tally-ho" for the Jersey farmers, I believe; but the plough does not keep them from getting a fair education, while their wives and daughters happily distribute their attentions between the cow and the piano.
It is the great returns obtained from the production of early potatoes which have forced up rents to extravagant rates. In all probability there will have to be a considerable fall before long, for early potatoes have this year been coming more abundantly than heretofore from other sources than the Channel Islands, and prices have been very low in two out of the last three years. There was, I believe, a downward tendency in rents and land values two years ago; but it was apparently stopped by the large returns obtained from the potato crop last year.
Nothing more strikingly indicates change in the system of farming in Jersey than this sentence in the prize essay of 1859: " Jersey was once famous for the cultivation of potatoes." The writer proceeds to point out that, before the visitation of the potato disease, the production of 18 tons of tubers per acre was not uncommon, whereas it was a good crop in 1859 to yield 8 or 9 tons per acre. It is to be borne in mind that "old" or fully matured potatoes for export are here referred to, the practice of growing new potatoes for export not having begun. The general course of cropping in 1859, the same writer states, was one of five years, as follows: (1) turnips, mangolds, parsnips; (2) potatoes, and frequently carrots or parsnips; (3) wheat, in which clover and ryegrass are sown; (4) hay; (5) hay. In this division, potatoes occupied only about one-tenth of the land, and farms of 20 acres, with few exceptions, where meadow-lands or orchards predominate, are said to have been thus divided: Hay and pasture, 10 acres; turnips, 2; mangolds, 1; parsnips, 1; carrots 3/4; potaotes 2; wheat 3¼. Even among the oldfashioned farmers, the course is greatly changed now, being one of potatoes for two years, corn for one year, and clover or mixed seeds for one year or two years. More commonly, however, the farmers grow potatoes for two or three years, and then rest the land by sowing clover and ryegrass after the potatoes are dug, and letting the crop stand for two or three years. In this case a good deal of feed is commonly obtained in the autumn, the seeds being sown in july. Very little corn is grown, as will be seen from the table appended, and most of the barley is planted after potatoes come off the land, to be harvested the same year. It is not surprising, then, to find that potatoes occupy about onethird of the total area under crops, fallow, and grass in Jersey, instead of less than one-tenth, as estimated by the writer above referred to in 1859 - less than one-tenth, because he excepted grass and fruit farms from his estimate.
Unfortunately there are no precise crop statistics for an earlier year than 1867 (unless the doubtful figures for 1866 be taken), and we must be contented with seeing the differences which twenty years have brought about, as below:
|Crops in Jersey ||1867 ||1887 |
| || Acres|| Acres |
| Wheat || 2.352 || 1.876 |
| Barley || 137 || 119|
| Oats || 303 || 163|
| Rye || 21 || 52|
| Beans || 12|| 6|
| Peas || 2 || 20|
| Total Corn Crops || 2.827 || 2.236 |
| || || |
| Potatoes || 2.062 || 6.488 |
| Turnips || 1.547 || 1.705 |
| Mangolds || 730 || 724|
| Carrots || 913|| 113|
| Cabbage, rape, &c. || 159|| 50 |
| Vetches, lucerne &c. || 225|| 583|
| Total Green Crops || 5.636 || 9.663 |
| Clover, &c, and grasses under |
| 3.250 || 4.832 |
|Permanent pasture || 6.092 || 3.701 |
| Hops || || 3|
| Bare fallow || 2.550 || 126|
| Crops, bare fallow and grass || 20.355 || 20.561 |
Here we have a decrease of nearly six hundred acres of corn crops, an increase of 4.426 acres under potatoes, a great falling off in the cultivation of carrots, a great increase under vetches, lucerne, &c., and clover and grasses under rotation, a decrease of permanent pasture by over 2.300 acres, and an approach to the extinction of bare fallow.
Experienced farmers in Jersey say that many of the small holders of land devote too much of it to the potato crop, and frequently lose by so doing. For instance, they have to pay considerable amounts for hay and straw imported from France for their cattle. Many of them grow potatoes year after year for several years on the same land, which is only saved from deterioration by a heavy enpenditure in manures. A second crop is always taken after potatoes, consisting of roots of some kind, or "seeds" when the land is to have a rest for a year or two, or occasionally barley. Probably when hay and straw are cheap, and potatoes sell fairly, the profits on the latter crop more than make up for the expenditure on imported fodder; but last year high prices had to be paid for both hay and straw.
It is considered that at least 50 pound an acre must be received from the sale of potatoes in order to pay the Jersey farmer, and it is clear that, on his small acreage, he needs more than that, although his second crop, grown at a very small expense, must not be lost sight of. When a man and his family do all the work, the expense of raising the potato crop is, of course, greatly reduced, especially when seaweed vraic, as it is termed - is chiefly relied on as manure. It is not deemed the best practice to apply seaweed directly to the potato crop, though it is often done. The better plan is to put it on for the temporary pasture or "seeds", after which the potatoes are grown.
Seaweed is highly prized by the people of Jersey as a manure, and no doubt it contains some of the constituents in which their soil is deficient, including the potash so essential to the potato crop. The cost of the labour in obtaining it, however, is so great that it is a question whether what it supplies to the land could not be more cheaply obtained. In March last I frequently met twenty or thirty carts loaded with vraic coming up a road from the seashore. It costs practically nothing besides the labour of getting it - only a nominal fee of a shilling a year being charged for the right of cutting it from the rocks on some parts of the coast, and, I believe, not even that in others. Moreover, a great deal, of course, depends upon whether a farmer and his sons do all the work or have to employ others to assist in collecting the seaweed. At any rate, the ardour for collecting it is still considerable; one wealthy farmer, by way of illustrating the fact, having assured me that his son had been out all night at the work, and this more than once during the week. Women used to help in the gathering, but seldom do so now. SOmetimes the seaweed is burnt, and the ashes are applied as a dressing for the potato crop. In that case I think it may be taken for granted that the ashes cost a great deal more per cwt. than equally valuable artificial manure would cost.
Before referring to the returns of the potato crop,, a few remarks upon its cultivation are desirable. To begin with, nothing is more important in the system pursued in Jersey than the careful preservation and preparation of the seed tubers. In the first place, a frequent change of seed is regarded as essential, and seed tubers of the Ashleaf and other varieties are imported from ENgland regularly. In the first year after importation the crop is abundant, but rather later tahn that grown from Jersey seed. In the second year the stock is in its perfection, earliness and yield being both satisfactory. After that the vigour of the stock deteriorates, as shown in declining yield, and it is desirable to have a fresh lot of English seed after the third year.
Whether home-grown or imported, the seed consists of whole sets, as a rule, rather small tubers being alone saved for seed. These are placed, eyes upwards, in shallow boxes of thin deal, where they remain till taken out into the field to be planted. The boxes are piled up one upon another in a shed or barn, and the seed is taken in them to the field without having been disturbed. The tubers have by that time sent out strong green shoots, about an inch in length, which are carefully kept uppermost in planting. In this way the produce is brought to such a degree of maturity as it is allowed to reach, a month earlier than it would be if potatoes without shoots were planted. The system of cultivating the land for potatoes is well described by Colonel Le Cornu in his prize essay on "The Potato in Jersey", in the sixth volume of the present series of the "Journal" (1870). In ploughing, a small plough drawn by two horses is used, turning a 16-inch furrow, about 4 inches deep. This is followed by the great Jersey plough, drawn by six horses, which goes about 10 inches (deeper in 1869) below the depth touched by the small plough. Formerly the stable manure or seaweed was put on the land before ploughing was begun; but now it is usual to put it on just before sowing the seed, except, as already explained, when seaweed is put on the temporary grasses of the preceding year.
Planting is, in favourable seasons, begun in January, and should be finished by the end of February; but this year the work was not nearly finished by the middle of March. The seed is planted in rows 14 inches to 20 inches apart, the sets being about 12 inches apart in the rows. The work is usually done with a small one-horse plough, the sets being covered with only 2 or 3 inches of soil. From 30 to 40 cabots per vergée, or 17 to 26 cwt. per acre, according to the size of the sets, are commonly planted noow, according to Mr. Le Gros. Colonel Le Cornu, in 1870, said about 20 cabots per vergée used to be planted; but this was probably when "old" potatoes were produced. The land is usually lightly harrowed just before the tops prick through, then forked up between the rows and hoed in the rows when the tops show, and afterwards the tops are earthed up with the plough. The crop is usually dug up by hand, and not often ploughed up. The price paid digging and collecting the tubers in rows is about 25s a vergée when labourers are hired to do the work; but this does not include picking up or filling the carts.
The varities of potatoes most commonly grown in 1870, according to Colonel Le Cornu, were the Ashleaf, Prolific, Early FLuke, Trois Mois, Dalmahoy, and Early Regents. At present the prevailing sorts are the Ashleaf (Myatt`s), the Royal Jersey Fluke, the Old Jersey Fluke, and Prince of Wales. The old Jersey Fluke is considered the best of all varieties, or at least as good as Myatt`s Ashleaf; but the favourite variety among growers now is the Royal Jersey Fluke, although it is of inferior quality. The reason of the preference for the lastnamed variety is that it is very early and prolific, while the tubers are large. London buyers, it appears, will have large tubers, no matter what the quality may be. At any rate, although the quality of the ROyal Jersey Fluke is notoriously poor, it was selling at 1s. a cabot or 52s. a ton, more than the Ashleaf at the end of June. Such an argument for the growth of the variety is irresistible; but there are some misgivings lest Jersey potatoes should lose their reputation among British consumers, although dealers appear to care more for appearance than for flavour.
In an early season, digging commences on the most forward of the côtils in the last week of April or (more commonly) the beginning of May, but was more than a month later than usual this year. Indeed, very few potatoes had been dug when I was in Jersey, in the third week of June. These remarks refer, of course, to the outdoor crop, forced potatoes being ready as early as January, and those grown in cool-houses in the latter part of April; but the production of the crop under glass is not common in Jersey, though it is in Guernsey, as will hereafter appear. ALthough the yield of the potatoes first taken up - often before the skins are properly set - is, of course, smaller than when they are left to mature a few weeks longer, a week makes such an enormous difference in the price that there is a race to meet the early demand. In the season of 1887, which was not an early one, the small lots of tubers shipped in the week ending May 28, according to the weekly returns collected by Mr. Barbier of St. Heliers, sold at the rate of 22 pound 10s. a ton, while for the week ending June 16 price was only 5 pound 12s. 7d. This year the first lots realised 10 s. per cabot, or 26 pound a ton; but in the third week of shipping the price had fallen to 1s. 8d. per cabot for Ashleaf and 2s. 8d. for Royal Jersey Flukes, or 4 pound 7s. to not quite 6 pound a ton. This tremendous drop was owing to the extreme lateness of the crop in Jersey, the London market being speedily glutted with produce from other sources.
With respect to yield, Quayle, who wrote in 1812, vouches for 12 to 14 cabots per Jersey perch ("old" potatoes), or 23½ to 24 tons per acre, being often obtained, and speaks of a quantity equivalent to 26 tons per acre having been grown; but some exaggeration may be suspected in these statements, though a phenomenal crop of 24 tons per acre, mentioned with the grower`s name, amy have been produced once in a while before the disease was known. A yield of 10½ tons per acre is considered a good crop now that only early potatoes are produced; while 12 to 14 tons, occasionally grown, would be regarded as a great crop; and 17 tons, talked of as having been produced, would be reckoned a tremendous yield. Such yields are not obtained upon the earliest diggings. Mr. John Gaunt, however, informed me that he grew 6 cabots per Jersey perch, or 9 tons 13 cwts. per acre all round, last year, and sold the produce at 1s. 9d. to 4s. 6d. per cabot. As the yield of the potatoes that sold at the highest price was probably less than the average, it is not warrantable to translate these figures into 47 pound 5s. to 121 pound 10s. per acre; but Mr. Gaunt`s average return was 90 pound an acre on 60 perches of côtils for the three years ending with 1887. Another account, given me by Mr. Philip Lefeuvre, of St. Owens, where the land is not as rich as it is in Mr. Gaunt`s district, was to the effect that his average returns for 13 vergées of potato-land for the four years ending with 1887 was 27 pound per vergée, or 60 pound 15s. per acre. This season Mr. Lefeuvre was one of the first to dig out-door potatoes, and he realised 8s. per cabot in the first week of Jne, or 20 pound 16s per ton. Probably the yield of the crop was not large, as the tubers could scarcely have attained much size; but if it were only 3 cabots per perch, the gross returns were 108 pound an acre
More astonishing than any of these figures are those given in the British Press and Jersey Times Almanack, as from "reliable, though unofficial sources", making the exports of potatoes from Jersey last year amount to 50.670 tons, valued at 434.917 pound. As there were 6.488 acres of potatoes in the island in 1887, this account makes the average gross returns equal to over 67 pound an acre, without allowing anything for potatoes consumed at home and saved for seed. Judging for the official Annual Statement of Trade for the United Kingdom, and the value of the exports from Guernsey, declared by the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce, the figures given above are under-estimates; for the value of potatoes imported from the Channel Islands is put down in the Statement at 511.278 pond, while the exports of tubers from Guernsey are valued by the Chamber at 50.000 pound. The balance 461.278 pound, would allow over 71 pound for every acre in Jersey. In addition to the quantity exported, it is estimated that 8.000 tons were retained in the island . It is true that 1887 was an exceptionally good year for Jersey growers. In 1886, which was a very bad year in respect of prices, the exports were estimated at 62.208 tons, valued at 279.572 pound. This valuation makes the return for exported tubers under 44 pound per acre on the 6.411 acres grown in that year; but there is a great discrepancy between the official and unofficial values for 1886. In the "Annual Statement" the value of potatoes imported in that year from the Channel Islands (and there are no direct imports from ALderney or Sark) is put at 459.395 pound. Therefore, unless the value of the potatoes exported from Guernsey in 1886 was very much greater than that of 1887, which is unlikely, the value of the Jersey exports must have been over 100.000 pound in excess of the sum stated in the unofficial estimate.
It is to be feared that the returns on the potato crop this year will be lower than they have been in any previous year since early tubers were grown in the island. It has been stated that the price fell quickly to from 1s. 8d to 2s. 8d. a cabot, and the range of values did not long continue as high as that. Writing on July 28, Mr. Le Gros says:
"As regards the potato crop, it has been almost a failure. ALthough there has been a heavy crop, the price has been so low that the loss to farmers is enormous. During this week it has come down to 6d. a cabot, and many farmers have realised only from 9 pound to 10 pound a vergée, barely enough to pay the rent and labour".
Sixpence a cabot is 26s. a ton - certainly a ruinous price. As the expenses of freight and commission exceed this amount, it is to be presumed that Mr. Le Gros has allowed for them, and that 6d. per cabot is the net price received by growers. Even so it is ruinous in many instances, as it means a loss of over 20 pound an acre where the cost of growing was nearly or quite 45 pound, and the receipts 10 pound a vergée, or 22 pound 10 s. an acre.
In the prize essay already referred to, there is a table giving the exports of potatoes from Jersey in nearly every year from 1807 -when the business commenced was that for 1842 -18.560 tons. These were chiefly, if not entirely, fully matured or "old" potatoes. In 1845 the disease first affected the crop in the island, and then the exports fell to 3.822 tons. By 1867 they had risen to 6.251 - still, to a great extent, "old" potatoes. The figures given above for 1886 and 1887 show what a vonderful increase has taken place, especially when it is borne in mind that the exports consist entirely of early tubers, the shipping being finished by the end of August.
Great numbers of Brittany peasants, with their wives and some childre, migrate to Jersey for the potato harvest. The number is suppossed to be from two to three thousand. This year, unfortunately, these poor people came over too soon, the crop being very late, and when I was there at the end of June there were great numbers of them in St. Heliers with nothing to dog. Their case was a sad one, as they came over with scarcely any money, and they could not afford to pay for lodgings. Since in the previous year they had herded so thickly in the cheap lodgings of the town as to leave a great deal of disease behind them, the authorities had fitted up the cattle market, to the extent of putting straw in the sheds og pieces of sailcloth in front, for their reception. Over six hundred of them, men, women, and children, slept in these comfortless lodgings at the time referred to. As a rule, when they have work in the country, they sleep under hedges, when the weather is fine, or in sheds, or under stacks - anywhere to escape the expense of proper lodgings. They earn very good wages, 25s. a vergée being the usual price for digging potatoes, though this season many of them got only 20s. to 24s. A man often earns 5s. a day at this work. When employed by the day, the men get 2s. 6d. with food and cider, or 3s. 6d. without food. Women have 1s. to 1s. 3d., with food and cider. Two men digging will keep three women employed, one gathering tops, and two picking up the tubers and laying them in rows. Ordinary wages appear to be about 12s. a week and cider in the winter, and 15s., with cider, in summer.
The system of storing hay in the island is peculiar. It is generally tied in bundles and stored in granaries or barns, though some is stacked. The scarcity of straw and the expense of thatching render the farmers anxious to avoid stacks. The crops of hay, especially of clover and rye grass, are very heavy, as a rule. Lucerne and ryegrass mixed, too, produce great quantities of forage for several years. This plan of growing lucerne is to be recommended, as no hoeing is necessary, and as the mixture makes excellent food for cows and horses.
The production of other early vegetables potatoes and of fruit in Jersey is an important industry, though in comparatively few hands. On the other hand, the growth of apples, pears, and other outdoor fruit is rapidly diminishing. The table of cropareas previously given does not include those of orchards, market gardens, and nurseries. In 1887 Jersey had 1.015 acres in orchards, 97 in market gardens, and 23 in nurseries; while the corresponding figures for 1886 were 1.165, 174, and 36, thus showing considerable decreases in a single year. As to bush-fruit, only 56 acres were returned as grown in orchards, between trees, last year. The apple orchards have been greatly neglected of late, and are fast disappearing. They are now chiefly valued for the making of cider. Pears, for which the island has long been famous, are still grown to a limited extent, but many fruit-growers have done away with their pear trees to make room for glass-houses.
Small farmers in Jersey do not, as in Guernsey, build glasshouses for the production of early fruit and vegetables, and that branch of industry is chiefly in the hands of a few extensive growers. One of these, Mr. George Bashford, of St. Saviour`s is deservedly famous as one of the most successful managers of glass-houses in the world. Everything that I saw in his numerous houses on each of two visits paid to him this year was flourishing, failure being apparently unknown to him. He has now nearly thirteen acres of land occupied with glasshouses, and the borders necessary for the vines in most of them, and the heating pipes he uses measure about fifteen miles in length. Tomatoes and grapes are his most important crops, both being grown in the same houses, as a rule, till the vines cover the glass, after which the houses are devoted to grapes. In some houses, however, vines are not planted. Last year, Mr. Bashford sent 80 tons of tomatoes and 25 tons of grapes to England, and this year he expects the totals to be 100 tons of tomatoes and 25 tons of grapes.
On the occasion of my first visit on March 12 of this year, a few tomatoes in hot-houses had already been picked, and 22.000 plants were about to be put in between rows of tomatoes in cool-houses, in addition to a number previously planted. On my second visit, at the end of the third week in June, these tomatoes were bearing fruit, some ripe, and making a splendid show, the potatoes grown with them having been dug and exported. The bulk of the tomatoes grown in heat begin to yield an abundance of ripe fruit by the end of March or early in April, and keep on producing till the end of June, when the fruit in cool-houses should begin to come in. It is usual to grow a crop of late tomatoes in the hot-houses after the early crop. Tomatoes are also grown after cucumbers, for winter use.
The hot-house grape season is reckoned to begin in October and end in May, and Mr. Bashford has a constant supply, I believe, ready to send away during the whole period, as he has special facilities for storing his fruit, having built two houses for the purpose, with double walls lined, as are floors and roofs, with sawdust to keep out frost. One of these is fitted up for the reception of 10.000 bunches, which are preserved by putting the stalks in bottles of water, placed in a slanting position on laths, the grapes hanging down from the necks of the glass bottles. A similar house holds 2.000 bunches. It is usual to put the grapes in these houses ablut the middle of December, and they can be kept there, if necessary, till February, when the price is usually high. March and April are the months in which prices are highest; but the supply for those months is grown separately by Mr. Bashford, the fruit being ready to be cut during that period, usually about two tons. Some of the glas-houses, it should have been mentioned, are 680 feet long.
Mr. Bashford grows a large quantity of potatoes under glass, some in heat and others without. The heat, however, is not for the potatoes, but for the tomatoes grown with them in alternate rows. It does not pay, he says, to force potatoes, and those grown in the hot-houses are planted later than the others, no attempt being made to force them to come to maturity earlier than the tubers in cool-houses, as the yield is diminished by forcing. In cool-houses, Mr. Bashford reckons his average yield is at the rate of 11 tons per acre; but he has grown 11½ cabots per Jersey perch, or nearly 20 tons per acre. Potatoes grown under glass without artificial heat should be ready for market by the end of April or early in May, just before the outdoor crop is begun; bu some growers force the tubers for sale in January and up to April.
French beans are grown between rows of tomatoes in heat, for picking in January and February. Peas are produced in coolhouses only for picking early in April, and up to the time when outdoor produce is ready.
Having briefly described the largest and best of the fruit and early vegetable gardens in Jersey, it is not necessary to refer to others. Mr. Bashford grows a few choice pears; but glass will soon cover the diminished ground occupied by the trees. Judging from what I learned of the quantities and prices of his produce, I have no doubt that his money returns from 13 acres of land greatly exceed those of an ordinary English farm of 1.300 acres. He does not wish his prices to be published; but a few quotations of wholesale prices in Covent Garden Market at different periods of the year may be useful to young producers.
Tomatoes realise the highest prices in February and March, when the wholesale quotations in COvent Garden are commonly 2s. to 3s. a pound, falling to 1s. to 2s. in April. 1s. to 1s 6d. in May, 9d. to 1s. in June, and 3d. to 4d. in the autumn, and rising to 1s. in Janaury. Grapes (from cool-house) range from 8d. to 1s. in August and September (when outdoor produce from wine-producing countries sell at 3d. to 8d.) to from 4s. to 12s. i March and April. Potatoes realise 6d. to 1s. a pound in January, and get cheaper as the season advances. French beans sell at 2s to 2s.3d. aa pound in January and February, and peas in the pod at about 1s. in APril and May. Prices vary with the season to some extent; but those given were mostly obtained last year.
But little space is available for reference to live stock and dairying in Jersey. It is not necessary to describe the famous breed of cattle now more extensively bred in this country than in its native island. The number has fluctuated during the last twenty years between 10.000 and nearly 12.500. The figures from the Agricultural Returns for cattle and other live stock for 1867 and 1887 are as below.
| Live Stock in Jersey ||1867 ||1887 |
| Cattle || 10.081 || 12.474 |
| Agricultural horses || 2.427 || 2.400 |
| Sheep || 529 || 349|
| Pigs || 5.804 || 5.134 |
The accuracy of the return of cattle for 1867 is doubtful, because the number in 1866 was put down at 12.037, while in 1868 it was 12.225, and a reduction of over 2.000 in the intervening year is improbable. The number of cattle between 1868 and 1887, at any rate, has not materially increased, while there is a decrease in sheep and also in piges. Horses were not enmerated till 1869.
That the system of tethering cattle, universal in the island is an economical one is beyond doubt, and the chief objection to it is the torment which tetherede animals suffer during the fly season. There is no sheltering under hedges or in the sade of trees to escape either from the flies or from the hot rays of the summer sun. It would probably pay well to keep cattle indoors during the heat of the day in the hottest weather. FOrmerly it was customary to keep the animals out all night from some time in May till the end of October; but the owner of the largest herd that I visited informed me that this is not the custom now. FOrmerly cows were managed so as to calve in the spring; but now calving may be said to go on all the year round, winter dairying being profitable in a place to swell suited as Jersey is.
The prices of Jersey cattle, after getting up to a high standard, have fallen to pretty nearly the rates current thirty years ago. In 1859, Colonel Le Cornu gave 12 pound to 14 pound as the price of a two-year-old heifer, and now it is 12 pound to 15 pound; while the price of a first rate four-year-old cow was about 25 pound in 1859, and is so still, though fancy prices are still occasionally given for show animals. The foreign demand, which was so active a few years back that prices were much higher than those above given, has greatly slackened of late, chiefly because Jerseys have been extensively bred for some years in America and elsewhere; and, of course, the ENglish demand has fallen off for the same reason. Space is not available for the description of the herds visited during my stay in Jersey. One of the best I saw was that belonging to Mr. Edward Denyze, who has forty cows in milk. The principal strains represented in this herd are Young Prince (182), Bobby (208) and Jersey Boy (92). All the young stock now on the farm are by the same bull, Browny`s Perrôt 1st (677). I saw also some excellent cattle on the farm belonging to Mr. ALbert Le Gallais, of St. Brelade`s, and a smaller number belonging to Mr. J.P. Marett, of St. Saviour`s. Among other well-known herds are those of Mr. Philip Labey, of Granville;
Mr. J.A. Desreaux, of St. Mary`s; Mr. W. ALexander, of St. Mary`s; and Mr. H.J. Langlois, of St. John`s
No change has taken place in the prevailing system of buttermaking in Jersey. The old box churn is still in general use, though a few farmers use the barrel churn. As a rule, too, the milk is set in deep crocs crocks or other vessels, and sour cream is churned once or twice a week. There are, however, a few of the now well-known Jersey creamers in use. The butter is churned into a lump, and salted after it has been taken out of the churn. One point of merit is that large wooden spoons are used for the working of the butter, and not the hands; but that is a very old Jersey practice, and in former times was one favourably distingguishing the butter-makers of the island. Cold water is used in thus working the butter, to cleanse it as far as is possible after it is in a lump - which is not very effectively -from buttermilk.
Jersey people think a good deal of their butter, and some of it is good, though the bulk is not. The best farmhouse butter I tasted in the island was that made in the dairy belonging to a London dairyman. The butter served at two of the best hotels in St. Heliers, at one in March, and at the other in June, had none of the delicate flavour of good fresh butter. There is one dairy factory in Jersey, in Trinity parish, not far from St. Heliers, belonging to Messrs. Griffin & Co. The farmers who supply milk to the factory are paid 8d. a gallon, and get part of the separated milk back at half price, the rest being made into cheese - the only cheese, that I heard of as being made in the island. A Laval Separator, to deal with 70 gallons of milk per hour, a Waide`s end-over-end churn, a Lundh (Norwegian) butterworker, and the Delaiteuse are worked by a small steamengine. The butter, made in accordance with the most approved modern system, is excellent. The dairymaid was trained in one of the ENglish or Irish dairy schools.
It is commonly said that a country inhabited by small owners and cultivators of land is usually denuded of trees. This is not the case in Jersey. On the contrary, the island is wellwooded, and in many parts there is quite an extraordinary number of trees of fair size by the roadsides. The inside hedgerows contain a great many more pollards than the late Mr. Mechi would ahve liked to see, woodlands being so scarce in the island that the people are glad to preserve trees for lopping. For the same reason, and also for shelter for crops and live stock, the hedges are allowed to grow high. To the English farmer, accustomed to trimly-clipped whitethorn hedges - though these are not common in many parts of England - the rough fences in Jersey, studded with pollards, appear unsightly; but they add to the picturesqueness of an island in which utility is certainly not neglected.
The future of farming in Jersey is just now somewhat doubtful, its recent high standard of prosperity having depended to a very great extent upo the remunerativeness of the potato crop. Whether the pre-eminence in the growth of this crop which the island has long enjoyed will be maintained or not, cannot be stated with certainty. If not, and if consequently the enormous land prices and rents of Jersey should fall, there is still no reason to doubt that a country so favoured in