By Chris McCullough
An English dairy farmer and his family have been chosen to be the new dairy farmers on the island of Sark, which is located just off the north west coast of France.
A global hunt for a new dairy farmer was launched earlier this year as the resident dairy farmer was retiring and the island’s 500 residents plus thousands of annual visitors needed a new supply of fresh milk and cream.
Interest in taking up the post came from as far away as the United States, Cyprus and New Zealand to more locally from the Isle of Lewis off Scotland.
That adventurous farmer taking up the post is Jason Salisbury and his wife Katharine who currently run a herd of pedigree Guernsey cows on Whitegate Farm near Suffolk.
The couple and their children have a wealth of experience in producing dairy products as they already make their own award winning Suffolk cheeses from their own top quality Guernsey cow milk.
As the existing dairy farm on Sark needed extensive modernisation, plans are afoot to construct a new state of the art dairy on a green field site on the island.
Sark Island is one of the Channel Islands measuring only 3.5 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. It relies on tourism and agriculture to support its economy. It has no cars, no paved roads, no street lighting and almost no pollution but does attract over 50,000 visitors each year fed by a number of eateries that need milk.
It is anticipated that the new dairy will be in operation by early 2021 when the residents will be able to sample home produced milk, via a vending machine, and cream again. Initial plans are to start the groundwork this Autumn.
A trust has been set up to project manage the building of the new dairy which will include an education section where the local and visiting children can learn about milk production.
Back in 2017 existing dairy farmer Chris Nightingale decided to retire and sold his herd as continuing to farm on that site was impossible due to problems with land tenure and old equipment.
Now the newly formed Sark Community Dairy Trust has been set up and 40 acres of land has been donated by the island’s Seigneur Christopher Beaumont on which to build the new dairy.
The trust will fund and own the dairy and lease it to the new farmers who will operate it as tenants. The Salisburys will also import 16 in calf Guernsey cows and heifers from Guernsey to Sark in early 2021 to calve around April or May. Neighbouring farmers will also grow feed crops for the dairy herd.
Katharine said: “We will continue to manage our Suffolk farm and cheese making enterprise from Sark and have hired a farm manager from Northern Ireland to look after the daily running of the farm and the existing staff and customers.”
Future plans for the dairy on Sark include the construction of an abattoir to produce meat and a facility to produce cheese.
Half of the £400,000 that the trust intends to raise by appeal for the project has already been pledged.