Young couple take over Castel Farm Eggs business
Freshly-laid Guernsey eggs are back on the menu, after a young Guernsey couple have agreed a deal to take over at Castel Farm Eggs.
Jessica Ogier and James Rihoy will begin life on the farm on 1 January, and will immediately start work on eradicating the muck and fly problems that have dogged the site for the past couple of years, ultimately concluding in a court-enforced action to remediate issues and close the farm.
Previous owners Steve and Emma Brooks decided to shut the farm after agreeing the closure plan with environmental health officers, who took the case to the Royal Court.
The couple met with representatives of neighbours this week and said they had been very supportive of their plans.
‘They really didn’t want to lose the Guernsey egg,’ said Miss Ogier.
‘They were just concerned with the fly problem, and just like them, we want it to be a clean, happy environment.’
The duo are no strangers to the farming life. Miss Ogier, 26, is the daughter of Julian and Katherine Ogier, who run Le Hechet Dairy Farm, where Mr Rihoy, 24, has helped for the past seven years.
‘We are both experienced with muck and that is what all farms’ problems come back to,’ said Mr Rihoy.
‘One of the first jobs we are going to do is install automatic muck scrapers. No muck, no fly larvae, and no smell.’
They are also planning to install fans to improve ventilation in the sheds, something the States Vet is advising them on, and undertake a general renovation of the whole site.
‘We have been working with environmental health and the States Vet to make sure we comply with the original court order,’ he said.
‘We will start with just two sheds and 9,000 chickens and then slowly build back up to the original number of about 14,000.’
Le Hechet Farm had a long-standing relationship with Castel Farm Eggs as it used 2,500 of their eggs in its ice cream every week – all cracked by hand.
‘It all happened really quickly, we are really excited to get started,’ said Miss Ogier.
‘We have already had discussions with shops and they are really happy to have us too.’
The couple said they were passionate about Guernsey produce and had a five-year plan to upgrade the farm.
‘Our long-term goal is to become RSPCA assured, just like my parents’ dairy farm,' Miss Ogier said.
‘We are looking into visiting some farms in the UK to see how they operate. Some use the muck itself as a fuel or convert it into pellets for fertilizer.’
The new venture will be called Guernsey Eggs Ltd, but initially it will continue to use Guernsey Farm Eggs packaging.
Working alongside the couple will be Chloe Markwick, who, at just 17, will become chief egg collector.
‘We will have to wear hard hats to start with when we are working in the sheds,’ she said.
‘Just like cows, chickens have to get used to you.’
The enterprising couple currently run milk and newspaper rounds and wanted to assure those customers that it would be business as normal.
‘We want to plough profits from the chicken farm back into the business,’ said Miss Ogier.
‘So will be carrying on with the milk round as normal.’
It is a busy period for the couple who are in the middle of renovating a house, and are getting married on the evening of Saturday 23 December.
‘We can’t do it earlier as half the guests are dairy farmers and they need to milk the cows before coming,’ she said.
‘And our first night in the new house will be the first of our marriage, although we need to fit the kitchen this week.
‘House, wedding, chicken farm, it’s all just come at once.’
Environmental Health to work closely with new owners of Guernsey Eggs
Environmental Health officers will work closely with the new owners of Guernsey Eggs to ensure that the farm does not become a health hazard to neighbours again.
Officers have been in talks with Jessica Ogier and James Rihoy about their plans for the farm, which they take over from 1 January.
Environmental Health took the previous owners to court to force site improvements or close the farm down last year, after a couple of years of repeated complaints of issues with flies.
‘We’re pleased that the new owners of the farm have reached out to us, which has given us the opportunity to discuss with them how they plan to run the business,’ said Tobin Cook, director of environmental health and pollution regulation.
‘As there have been historical concerns from neighbours regarding this site, we’ve already liaised with people in the surrounding area, to make sure they are aware of the plans and how this will operate. We’ll continue to work closely with the new owners.’