Our arrival and first year on Alderney PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Cox   
Thursday, 16 October 2008 09:52

In 2000 Kiln Farm had been bought by an Alderney islander, Jackie Main, who after returning from Glasgow after the war in 1946 as an 11 year old boy with his family, had worked for his father in the haulage business. Jackie's introduction to farming came after one of the local farmers witnessed him helping the farmer's horse. The horse had become entangled in the tether rope and several people had been to tell the farmer of the problem but only the young Jackie had the foresight to help the animal before it strangled itself. From that day on, before and after his duties with the family firm, Jackie helped the farmer in all manner of seasonal work and stock duties.

When he was only 14 while working a plot of the family's land, a lady offered her plot adjoining for him to buy, coming to the deal that he could work her plot too for a year and, with the proceeds of what he was able to sell, could buy her plot. This is what he achieved and while working 50 to 60 hours for his father and being paid the grand sum of two and six (12.5p) a week, still managed to raise the sum of £8 for 8 perch*, his first plot of land. His love of the out door life and working on the land, grew and grew.

*Land in the Channel Islands is measured in vergee and perch: 2.5 vergee per acre and 100 perch per vergee. Good land in the late 1940s was £1 a perch; second quality 50p a perch and poor land 10p.

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While still working in the haulage business and later getting involved with the building industry, Jackie grew potatoes and grain. He even had beef cattle plus a herd of pigs when he built his own slaughter house to deal with the end product. As time went on and the island began to develop, the building work took priority and his activities in the family's haulage business and farming interests dwindled.  

Clare and I came over to see the island in April 2000 and met up with Jackie and his wife Daphne. We then spent 24 hours looking over the farm and land. As Jackie dropped us back at the airport he offered us the tenancy there and then, subject to us taking on John le Cocq's widow's remaining livestock and machinery. John le Cocq was the former owner of Kiln Farm who, unfortunately, died prematurely in 1999. Jackie had offered to convert one of the existing buildings into a milk processing facility and we would provide the fixtures and fittings. The whole deal was done on a handshake and Jackie has to a fault, been true to his word and supported us as if we were his own family. He's done more than we could have hoped for to ensure the whole project succeeded.

The dairy had been run down and, due sadly to ill health and the early death of John le Cocq, the last remaining active farmer on the island, the islanders had been reliant on imports of milk products from Guernsey and the mainland. The whole point of us being awarded the tenancy at Kiln Farm was to resurrect the dairy farming and processing of local milk for the island residents, rather than relying on once a week delivery from Guernsey.

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When we arrived to take up our role in mid July we inherited approximately 70 head of Guernsey cattle. An assortment of females of different ages: 20-plus dry cows, in-calf heifers and 6 cows were still being milked in a milking bail into buckets, which was then poured into churns and either fed to calves, or thrown away.

From July through to December we battled the bracken, brambles and ragwort. We knocked in approximately 3500 wooden fence posts for electric fencing to contain stock and laid on water to as much land as possible.

Jackie's men converted the right hand side of an existing building for the processing while we put in a Fullwood 6-standing-abreast parlour on the left hand side of the same building. Raw milk bulk tanks were placed in the middle so that we could get milk from cow to cornflakes with ease.

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In December 2000 after much fumbling in the dark and heartache, we managed to get the first local milk back on the shop shelf after an absence of 18 months. We had with Jackie's help taken Alderney's dairy industry from the 1950s to 21st century. The difference is, here the person who milks actually puts it on the retailer's shelf and the customer has direct contact with those that produce it. It is a good thing as, if you get it right, they tell you — at the same time, get it wrong and they will also tell you!

Mainland UK dairy farmers have for years been far more advanced with modern farming methods but have lost contact with their customer and are being dictated to by the processors and retailers.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 October 2008 07:36