A view from the West

Featuring food, fuel and the future in Jersey

Perennial bit
Sustainability, community, diversity!
This is a personal view of aspects of life in Jersey, Channel Islands. It focuses on the challenges of peak oil, food production, population density and climate change on our Island's fragile social, ecological and political systems

Shoe in?
I have not yet read the latest partish magazine, so had not noticed that the current connetable, Mike Paddock, has publicly declared he is not restanding.

There have been rumours of a potential challenge after the rates meeting in July where an extra £10,000 item was added to the budget  from the floor for  the Youth and Community centre.  I wasn't at that meeting, but I have the draft minutes at home somewhere.

I know Richard from my time as a Constable's Officer in the Parish.  I don't doubt he has the administrative capability to do the Parish role.  I cannot see a man whose  hobbies list car racing and who was very involved in the annual rally is going to be leading the fight locally on climate change.  The piece in the JEP talks of Jersey being part of the common agricultural policy.  We never have been to date - the reason farmers don't get EU subsidies.   Jersey did have area payments locally - part of the promise to farmers that they would not lose uot competitively  under article 3 when the UK joined the EU. I see no realistic possibility of us becoming part of the EU policy while Britain is trying to exit the EU.  At the very least the price of having us in and eligible for EU payments would surely be  to have VAT like every other EU member to pay our share of the the EU costs.

I also note how the end of the piece segues from Richard's announcement to  what Mike Paddock said "The role has been fulfilling, stimulating, challenging, and at times very humbling, and I will always be sincerely grateful for the undivided loyalty I have had from long-standing supporters from within the parish,"  Almost like a baton change in a relay race.

Future imperfect
The garlic and shallots are in so there's just a small quantity of peas in the greenhouse to transplant and everything is done for the year. Since it is our Soil Association inspection today, I'm even uptodate on the paperwork.  I ought to be feeling good about things.  But I dont really.

Often this time of year I find motivation difficult.  Rainy days mean I spend more time reading and the more I read the more I see madness in the world.  Eye watering debt levels both personal and pubilc, loss of species and biodiversity, degraded environments, oil back over $60/barrel, and food inflation way outstripping wages.  And the only national or international plans to deal with the first  make the others worse.   Plans of mine for growing next year are just getting  laid, but they are in stark contrast to that lot.

There will be a couple of changes.  First I'll have a bit less land to manage if all goes well.  I've been talking to some people setting up a new not for profit venture based here.  Looks like that will go ahead soon.  Another change is herself has increased the number of laying hens upto 12. I'm happy. They help  keep  things in balance eating insects and weeds and making use of the land that is put back to grass after lifting roots and tubers.  I also get hot material to help with compost making.  The eggs are something of a byproduct.  Again rather back to front to how most commerical outfits treat layers.  In those systems birds are typically culled after 2 years when the egg production declines.

Having less land to manage doesn't mean I have less work to do, it just means I can better keep on top of the other jobs that need doing, and improve quality a bit. I see that as a far better indicator of progress than simply producing more money.  But then food is real and economics is but an abstraction.

Parish Assembly

An Assembly of the Principals and Electors of the Parish of St Ouen will be held at St Oue​n's Parish Hall on Tuesday 21 November 2017 at 7.30pm.

  1. receive, and if deemed advisable, approve the Act of the Parish Assembly held on 19 July 2017

  2. consider the following application for recommendation to the Assembly of Governor, Bailiff and Jurats for 2018

    Name: Supermarket Alliance Limited
    Business address: Tesco Alliance, La Grande Route de St Ouen, St Ouen
    Category: 6th (Off Licence)

  3. elect from the inhabitants of the Parish, without regard to Cueillettes, a Vingtenier for the Cueillette de Grantez, the term of office of Mr Christopher Joseph Lamy having expired

  • in accordance with Article 5 of the "Loi sur la Voirie" elect three Principals residing in the Parish to act as Members of the Roads Committee, the terms of office of Messrs. Ronald John Vibert, Basil George Carré and Richard John Michel being due to expire

I'm struck by a point about the supermarket.  This is next to the St Ouen Motorworks.  We have two food shops in the parish about 400 metres from each other.   That is it in the largest parish geographically.  It seems to me to be a failing of any useful planning.  Much better to have one by the village and one by St George's state I woudl think.  Especially if we are serious about persuing strategies to reduce car usage.  To achieve that you have to put facilities near to where people are, not all bunched together in one place.

The commercial imperative.

Things are now slowing down notably in the field.  My greenhouse staging is full of  stuff not quite ready to go out - broad beans, peas , celery and winter lettuce.  Jerusalem artichokes and yacon have started being lifted and many gone to sale, and the last half dozen pumpkins are slowly going.  The garlic is in , earlier than normal, and two beds have been prepared for shallots to be planted  hopefully next week.  Overall I'm somewhat ahead of usual for this time of year, and the sales of modest quantities of surplus more than coverd the costs of seeds etc.  So much in fact that I've taken the opportunity to buy a few big glass cloches when they were on sale.

Last week I went to the farming conference at La Mare.  We were back to a full day affair with lunch, and the numbers seemed up a little.  I'd estimate 120.   The format was a little different with just 15 minutes at the end for questions.  The type of speaker also seems to have changed - more of the lobbyist and marketting types less of the academic. In previous years the agenda has taken some care to be  of wide appeal.  We have had  a local chef, equine people, researchers in alternative crops, organic producers and more .  This time it was very much focussed on commercial big players - dairy, potatoes and Jersey Water.   I suspect that reflects the fact the organisation of the conference has changed and now is run by JPPL  - the body that oversees Genuine Jersey - very much a promotional body.

Scott Meadows from the Environment Dept gave a talk at the end about the rural economy, LEAF etc.  I was particularly struck that the number of businesses getting financial support under LEAF has dropped from the previous scheme.  It was 67 , now 50.  Those now not  in the scheme are egg producers - the red lion scheme is too expensive it seems,  About half the equine businesses have not joined, and the rest are the very small producers.   The law of unintended consequences at play?

Elsewhere in the big world argiculture has been getting some attention.  Agriculture is a big source of greenhouse gas emissions, but there has been relatively little progress at the international climate change meetings, because it cuts across trade concerns. COP23 at Bonn has seen something of a breakthough that may mean some progress see In Ireland there is even a proposal to tax farm emissions see

But that is only half the story.  As the likes of the Soil Association and Rodale Institute have been saying for years, well managed soil sequesters carbon.  Stanford University have a recent paper looking at the potential of reduced tillage etc to sequest carbon and seem positive about it.  See

Glyphosate has also made the news. The EU parliament voted to ban it.  The EU commission, who  really make the decisions, were suggesting renewing the license for 10 years, then reduced it to 5 years.  But when it came to the vote  it did not succeeed.  By default glyphosate's license in the EU expires on the 15 December.   There is likely to be another vote to renew the license at the end of November, probably on a Fench proposal to renew for 3 years and then phase out  shortly after.  California's state government is now being sued by Monsato who are themselves being sued by a class action of hogdkins Lymphoma sufferers. California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), which is named in the federal lawsuit, said it stands by the decision to include glyphosate on the state’s list of products known to cause cancer and believes it followed proper legal procedures. 

But none of that big important stuff made it to our farming conference.  Jersey persist in talking about its greenhouse gas targets that are based on Kyoto targets when currently every country in the world has signed up the Paris agreement  (although the USA wants to withdraw).   Locally the Environment Minister  sees no reason to ban glyphosate , saying only that it isn't anymore a concern than eating bacon and doesn't acknowledge other concerns.

Time now to get planning for my  next season's artifical fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide, insecticide and most certainly glyhposate free growing.

Earth Project Jersey

This charity was launched at the 'Real Sea Lettuce' conference the other day and has quite a bit of exposure on the radio this morning.  The rubric is to promote clean air, water, healthy soils, nature etc. Sounds good.  But I'm not likley to get involved.  The short reason was mentioned a couple of  times on the radio this morning - they are calling what they are supporting  'beyond organic'.  Well my fields are certified organic and I grow to the Soil Association standards. I'd need some pretty compelling evidence to change from that well established system.

The charity/project aims to make all farms and produce in Jersey chemical free.  I think that is trying to run before it can walk. After all we have had certified organic producers in Jersey for three decades but we still have only a few percent of the land under certified management. Those growers already are not permitted to use artifical fertilizers, glyphosate  or most other industrial treatments. Some mineral treatments are permitted and it is possible to apply to have a one off derogation to use some limited products if total crop loss is threatened. I've never done that, though I have had to get permission in the past to use some unusual seeds that I grow simply because there is no organic supply.

I imagine that derogation system is a point of contention between the certified organic producers and the new charity.  But you dont have to use artificial produced chemicals as a certified grower.  You do have to do things like rotating crops. However the organic movement and the Soil Association system isn't just about chemicals and plants.  It covers animal husbandry, cosmetic products , natural fibre for clothings etc. too. And it goes rather futher into  the sustainability than just chemical treatment.  That is to say it is as much a holistic way to understanding interactions  as it is farming methods.  The Earth Project seems to have a way to go there to explain their position  One question for example:  would  they allow  medical treatment of sick animals?  Organic growers are required to treat ill animals but are prohibited from routine or prophylactic use. It campaigns against widespread and inappropriate use of antibiotics but stops short of requiring animals to suffer by banning them where approriate.  Another animal related question - what do  you do with the slurries and manure?

There is another area where I am cautious of the project.  The have said they want to run a sort of certification system where farmers (and others?) can use their logo if they are approved by the charity.  This is rather similar to the LEAF accreditation the States are keen to impose, which is also a private marque.  This is very different from the organic certification standards.  In Europe organic certification bodies have to comply with a legal defined set of minimum requirements.  Indeed except the odd place like Jersey, across Europe the term organic, or its equivalent, relating to food is  prohibited unless it is within a certification scheme. Some like the Soil Association are rather more stringent.  That system, combined with the annual inspections to verify compliance with the regulations is a good assurance scheme for the public.  A self regulated scheme defined and run  privately by a membership group is not the same thing at all.

Regenerative agriculture is being trialled in a number of places.  And I've absolutely no problem with properly constructed and reported trials.  Viable systems come about by doing just that.  Not just demonstrate it works in the general case, but also what can go wrong, how to prevent problems, how to manage when errors and unexpected eventualities arise.  Many tools of regenerative agriculture are known, especially to gardeners. Regeneration International Lists some : aquaculture, agroecology, biochar, compost, planned grazing, no-till, perennial crops, silvopasture. All contribue one way or another to the overall  aim of rebuilding top soil and soil health and sequestering carbon. Of course that is essential in places where soils have been heavily depleted -and there are many of those.  But where they have been carefully nurtured the aim is more that of maintenance. I'd wager that farms and holdings that have been run by committed organic farmers and growers for some years will be more in need of the latter than the former.

My  no till beds in preparation for 2018 .  The one uncovered is for overwintering  garlic.

200 square feet of leaves about 3 feet deep.  This will be seed and potting compost in a couple of years.

Compost bins. The far left is the most recent, turned weekly or so to aerate and mix. The piles shrink as the decomposition progresses.

André Maurois knew the problem

Maurois was a quotable French author of the early 20th century.  One quote of his that came very much to mind on a couple of occassions last week is (in translation of course) : the difficult part of an argument is not to defend one's opinion  but to know it.  I'll get to the 'Farming Conference' later, but first last week's Assembly and the disgraceful treatment of deputy Carolyn Labey.

The Agenda for last Tuesday was one of the shortest for a full Assembly I recall seeing.  There were the usual questions and question time, a statement from a scrutiny panel chair, and the proposition from the deputy on JE's proposed standby charges.  That was it.  Hardly arduous and the meeting was all over by lunchtime!  The meeting was shortened by the fact they didnt even debate the propositon, despite having curtailed the usual notice period slighly at a previous meeting so it could be debated ahead of the proposed JE charge introduction on the 1st November.

In the event JE deferred the implementation of the charge for a few months.  That was all the excuse needed for various elected members ,often referred to as senior in the press, to assert their opinion.  CiCRA is not the approriate body and anyway its useless (I paraphrase).  Since the whole point of the standby charge on commercial users disadvantages any potential competitors, who else but CiCRA is the relevant body?  And if it is so useless why are we paying it £500,000 per year?  Someone said they hadn't enough notice to be prepared.  A classic schoolboy defence for not completing homework.  It was on the very short agenda - how much more notice do you need to prepare to ask fo rsome research to be done?   It was also claimed it was complicated.  Nothing like the complexity of the financial regs and legislation that gets presented and so easily passed.  Also that it was involved since several States departments might be invovled.

Had those States members known their opinions they might have realised that claiming complexity and difficulty is a strong argument in favour of doing the research requested in the proposition and giving it more time to be completed.  The exact opposite in fact to what they did.  And perhaps if they had thought about it , involving several States department is exaclty where the Assembly needs to get involved. Couple that with the observation of the IJCI executive summary part x on the disasterous effects of departmental silo mentality and you have to wonder if those members actually knew their opinions.

Now to the Farming Conference.  I spotted this  in an online publication today.   It isn't even on the States web site that I can find (which ought to tell you something about the relationship between the States and the media). Interestingly I did find an invite to the public to the 2015 conference, but not the one last year, and certainly not the forthcoming event.  A bit like the title change (it used to be a land conference), it seems it is now only for those involved in significant commercial activity. 

Anyhow I was much amused at the topics highlighted.  Driverless tractors and robot crop pickers. Still huffing an puffing about  technology reducing pesticide and fertiliser use, but completly ignoring those growers and smallholders using organic and chemical free methods with some success.  Doesn't fit the prescibed narrative.  But let's think about the impacts of those driverless tractors and robot pickers.  Makes farming even more capital intensive, and of course the commercial benefit is fewer, preferably no staff, so no wages to cover.  In other industries that is sometimes countered by the claim that it means more can be done with the same.  Well that might be true for some individual farms or businesses, but in essence for the whole industry to do that you would need more land.  And it simply isnt there. (Actually the Future Jersey doc suggests we should continue the current trend of losing agricultural/open land!).  The inevitalbe outcome if it were taken up is fewer people employed.

But hold on a mo - it is those employed people who pay taxes while  trading businesses like farms are 0 rated.  So not only would we  lose jobs we would have lost tax revenue.  Then that is the scheme where companies can get paid for taking on  unemployed to a few months. Upto £6,000 per placement as I recall in order to  get people employed.  So in all likelihood not only do we lose tax we have to pay money out to get some other business to take them on. Does that sound like STates members know their opinions, rather than just defending them?

Truth is driverless tractors are impractical in Jersey.  They have been around a while (predate driverless cars) - and they might make sense on 1,000 acre barley farms in East Anglia or wheat praries of the USA that are all conjoined and accessed only on private land.  But on Jersey's small dispered fields I would think they are a non starter.  To begin with you need to drive them on public roads to access fields and there's no provision in the law for that and I doubt it is possible to get insurance either.  So now that involves infrastruct dept, environment, economic development and possibly the treasury.  And as a few ministers were so keen to point out in the JE standby charges debate - that's too difficult involving  so many States Departments.

If only they knew their opinions.....

UK Food and sustainability podcast
Interesting talk.  Prof. Tim Lang is well worth following.  His closing remarks are truly scary.

Food security and mass extinction

Not news here, but  it bears repeating.

In an article director general of Biodiversity International Ann Tutwiler said that "huge proportions" of the plant and animal species that form the foundation of the planet's food supply are just as endangered.She said this is getting "almost no attention", in a new report published today (26 September).“If there is one thing we cannot allow to become extinct, it is the species that provide the food that sustains each and every one of the seven billion people on our planet,” she said in an article for the Guardian.“This ‘agrobiodiversity’ is a precious resource that we are losing, and yet it can also help solve or mitigate many challenges the world is facing. It has a critical yet overlooked role in helping us improve global nutrition, reduce our impact on the environment and adapt to climate change.”

The destruction of wild areas, pollution and over-hunting has started a mass extinction of species on Earth, the report states.This will lead to global food supplies becoming "very vulnerable" to disease and pests. And due to the growing global population, demand for supplies will become increasingly strained.The report sets out how both governments and companies can protect, enhance and use a variety of little-known food crops that could help alleviate this pressure, such as gac, a fiery red fruit from Vietnam and and the orange-fleshed Asupina banana.Sainsbury’s is one retailer urging more diversification in crops. Its head of agriculture, Beth Hart, said: “The world is changing – global warming, extreme weather and volatile prices are making it harder for farmers and growers to produce the foods our customers love.“Which is why we are committed to working with our suppliers, farmers and growers around the world to optimise the health benefits, address the impact and biodiversity of these products and secure a sustainable supply.”

The future of food
Very interesting programme on the future of food on  Farming Today (Radio 4)

I find the suggestion from the panel that there will be even greater bifurcation between the fully automated  large scale agri biz and what I would call the artisan food  production system  very plausible.

What I was shocked at is that they gave the future food award to an underground hydroponics grower.  Sure the plants grow , but you have to manage everything and as a few on the panel pointed out the taste isn't there.   That probably indicates a point - we dont fully know the intricacies of the interdependence on plants and their environment including soil microbiology.  And there is a big power and water management cost.

Besides the wildlife above gound needs a diversity of plants for habitat and food.  Displacing food underground into hydroponics might supply a form of food, but you have to question what then happens above ground.
Tags: ,


Parts of the parish at Grève de Lecq and by the Manor were under several feet of water recently.  Amazingly our garage, which is often flooded, escaped.  I did have to clear the public drains on the road three times to stop the debris blocking them though.

Another snippet I came across pertinent to this  blog - 13 ideas for a fair and sustainable food system.  I think I have commented on all of them here in the past. 

Despite the wet weather I have been able to harvest a bit more quinoa - a tiny bit has spoiled but much is still harvestable.  The latest compost pile has heated up nicely and the plan this week is to start on the winter oats and figure out  what to do with a couple of dozen  rouge vif pumpkins.


Log in

No account? Create an account