New-look Sark herd to boost tourism and Dairy
SARK’S cows are set to become the island’s latest tourist attraction under plans by the island’s new dairy farmers.
Cows have been absent from Sark since the last farmer retired three years ago, but a wide-reaching search for a replacement dairy herder has finally found the perfect couple to restore the island’s proud tradition of making its own milk, butter and cream – and in the off-season, perhaps even cheese.
Jason and Katherine Salisbury, who own a herd of Guernseys in Suffolk, knew the position was tailor-made for them the moment they saw it on TV.
A lifelong dairy farmer, Mr Salisbury had often travelled to the island while visiting friends in Guernsey and the couple had dreamed of retiring there.
Retirement seemed a far cry away in 2004, however, when Mr Salisbury was made redundant. Given Mrs Salisbury’s veterinary experience, the couple took the opportunity to launch Suffolk Farmhouses Cheeses, powered by a herd of Guernseys.
‘Guernsey cows produce the best milk to make cheese with and no one else in Suffolk was using them,’ said Mr Salisbury.
This gap in the market proved a profitable one and success came quickly. The couple had planned to buy land after 10 years, but owned their own farm after only three. The couple now look after 80 Guernseys and know each cow by name and individual personality.
The Salisburys plan to continue managing Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses from Sark, but will farm a smaller herd of 15 in the island.
Mr Salisbury hopes they can educate as well as provide tasty products.
‘There are some misconceptions out there about dairy farming.
‘This is not intensive farming.
‘Give a cow a lovely pasture and a high welfare lifestyle and they’ll produce lovely milk.’
And these cows, which will be free to roam and forage in the field to south of Seigneurie gardens, will be fed home-grown barley and well looked after, say the Salisburys.
‘Hopefully they’ll be the most pampered cows in the Channel Islands.’
The central location of the Dairy’s pastures, coupled with plans to build a viewing platform overlooking the milking shed, means tourists and locals will be able to get a close-up view of the farming process.
The couple also plans to install a self-service vending machine allowing customers to make a trip of refilling their own glass bottles each morning.
The Dairy will also enhance local eateries, hotels, coffee shops and even Caragh Chocolates, by supplying its produce. Any excess could one day be exported to Guernsey.
Finding a candidate willing and able to cope with the unique challenges of farming in Sark was not easy.
The old Dairy and its equipment was in need of investment and that, coupled with the complications of operating on a small space, complicated the search for a new tenant.
Mrs Salisbury’s veterinary experience solved the problem of isolation and should prove useful not only to the dairy, but the island as a whole.
The Sark Community Dairy Charitable Trust was formed to combat these challenges and is roughly halfway towards its fundraising goal of £450,000.
It plans to launch an appeal for the remainder of the funds towards the end of March and hopes that the Dairy, including the building of a new premises, will produce its first product in April 2021.