JERSEY may have fallen into a trap by specialising in a small number of agricultural exports and then importing almost all the food Islanders need, according to a farmer who will speak at a conference in Trinity next week.
John Atkinson, whose family have farmed 450 acres in Cumbria for six generations, is one of a panel of experts taking part in ReGen Gathering – an all-day conference on regenerative food, farming and enterprise at Le Tâcheron Farm – next Friday.
He believes that there is great potential for the Island to follow the example of an increasing number of farmers in the UK who have rethought a farming business model they learned years ago in a college lecture room.
‘Looking at Jersey, we’ve been coming for a little while and it seems that they have fallen into the trap of producing a couple of goods that all get sold abroad and then import virtually all their food – 90% of food is exported and yet you import 90% of your food. You’ve got a wonderful climate for growing, yet you produce milk and not much else.
‘You only need crop failure, or to lose an export market and everything comes crashing down. Whereas if you produce lots of products and sell on the home market where it’s very short food miles, it’s good for the planet and you are much more resilient to change,’ he said.
Mr Atkinson explained that he turned to the regenerative farming model – which places an emphasis on local breeds, reducing dependency on fertilisers and crop sprays, and selling locally – when he saw how many of the farmers in his area were struggling to make ends meet.
Mr Atkinson is the subject of the Saturday Interview in the JEP on Saturday 23 September.