With its mild climate, Guernsey is a haven for local produce - and you don't have to travel far to find it. Vegetables and fruit, including the island's greatest export, the tomato, are for sale on the island's hedgerows in Hedge Veg stalls.Food festivals and farmer's markets are a great way of experiencing firsthand how self-sufficient islanders are. Guernsey has, arguably, the best milk in the world and with the addition of independent cheesemakers, there has never been more choice when it comes to local produce. Celebrity chef Rick Stein is a famous fan of Guernsey beef and, with an increasing number of local smallholders expanding into the market, local pork, veal and lamb are available. Historically, Guernsey was known for exporting its cider and there is now a resurgence of the industry with Rocquette cider. Locally-brewed beers are also widely available in the island's bars and restaurants. Guernsey's vibrant food culture is a real taste of what the island has to offer.
The idea of buying local, organic produce may be a recent global phenomenon but, here in Guernsey, we have been growing and buying organically for decades.
Growing your own has never been more popular with a recent Nationwide survey showing that vegetable seeds are now outselling flower seeds for the first time since World War II. Food miles are replaced with food metres as islanders have embraced the home-grown culture, digging up a corner of their garden and transforming it into a veg patch in a bid to become more self-sufficient. It was the surplus produced from individual growers that sparked one of Guernsey's best-loved traditions, which is still going strong today.
Hedge Veg stalls have become an iconic symbol of island life. Quintessentially Guernsey, the small handmade wooden boxes perch on the island's hedgerows are filled with fruit and veg, flowers and eggs, jams and chutneys, all for sale.
The simple, honest way of selling has changed little since it began, with a jam jar, small tin or even old milk churns for buyers to pay for their goods. Hit the islands' more rural roads and it won't be long before you come across one. The telltale signs are easy to detect - the car in front weaves around some hasty parking, a gaggle of locals are chatting on the verge next to a homespun 'retail outlet', fashioned from a table, crate or bit of old driftwood they found in the shed. On the side is a hand written sign, promoting what is on offer.
Today, the islands still produce an amazing variety of high quality fruit and vegetables with local varieties from grapes and melons to beans and potatoes. As well as the popular Hedge Veg stalls, a number of farmer's markets have sprung up including on a Saturday morning at Sausmarez Manor, St Martin's (or in the Community Centre throughout the winter) Fresh Friday market in Market Square, St Peter Port and at Le Friquet Garden & Lifestyle Centre, Castel, on a Saturday morning (at Fairfields in the summer). Far from dying out, many islanders have even gone one step further and are now rearing a smallholding of chickens, goats, pigs and even bees.
Islanders have grown up with the best - it's time to share.
Guernsey was once famous for growing and exporting both tomatoes and grapes. Cannon Hall grapes were Guernsey's first commercial crop. Exports began in 1830, rising to 2,541 tons per year in 1915. The yield declined from the 1920s onwards, falling to a meagre 10 tons per annum in 1971. Tomatoes were Guernsey's most famous export, first grown in Guernsey in 1865. Native to South America, Europeans originally grew tomatoes as decorative plants and thought they were poisonous. In 1864 an English newspaper published a story claiming research had shown the tomato was not only edible, but had health benefits. The following year, growers were already exporting tomatoes and greenhouses already dotted around Guernsey for grape-growing were being taken over by the new fruit. By the 1880s, people were building greenhouses specifically for growing tomatoes.
By the start of the 20th century, the tomato industry was taking over, with carpenters and boat builders also turned their skills to greenhouse building as the ship building industry started to decline. They finally eclipsed grapes and went on to cover 1,000 acres of the island in the late 1950s.Tomatoes were exported principally to England in wicker baskets, lined with coloured tissue paper to denote the different grades of the tomatoes. Grading and packing was done by hand for many years. In the late 1960s nearly half a billion tomatoes were picked and exported to England. Each one of those had to be handpicked, packed and shipped out. With rising oil prices, the cost of production increased and it became cheaper to import tomatoes into the UK from Holland. It was the start of the decline of the industry and not long before many greenhouses lay derelict around the island.
Growing is in the blood for one Hedge Veg producer. Sarah Vautier got hooked on growing her own after nurturing a few herbs in her back garden. Before she knew it gardening had taken over her life.
'My stalwart locals drive from the opposite end of the island to buy the asparagus,' said Sarah.
Along with her partner Joe Smith, they sell organic asparagus, fruit and vegetables and a range of jams and preserves on the hedge outside her picture-perfect cottage. The stall is a real community effort with lemons grown by her neighbour and eggs from a nearby farm Sarah calls Cluckingham Palace, also for sale. £1 notes and loose change are duly put in the tin and Sarah said no-one would dream of taking anything without paying.
'Money has been left just in the stall when they couldn't see the box - and it wasn't taken. One little old lady used to knock on the door and give me the money because she was so little she couldn't reach the tin,' she said.
All Sarah's family on her mother's side were keen growers.
'They grew vegetables for the family but my mother has always been passionate about gardening but she never grew anything that was edible, she was always more into her flowers,' she said.
It was only when the couple bought a beautiful granite cottage in the Forest that she discovered she had inherited a flair for gardening. They transformed the concrete yard in the centre of their property into a haven of tranquillity.
'I started out growing herbs here in the garden,' said Sarah.
It was when Joe's father sadly passed away six years ago that the couple were given an unexpected opportunity.
'Joe's mum had all these greenhouses and didn't know what to do with them. We wanted to have a go at growing veggies and it really grew from there.'
Sarah became more and more interested in the idea of being self-sufficient.
'I wanted to just eat fruit and vegetables that we were able to grow ourselves,' she said.
While Sarah experimented with a range of different produce, Joe decided to solely grow asparagus.
'He thought it would be a good commercial crop and grew 200 to 300 ferns all from seed,' said Sarah.
In recent years there have been the additions of lemon, plum and cherry trees along with vines, which produce local variety Cannon Hall grapes.
Once Sarah had mastered the art of growing, she became more interested in what she could produce from her harvest which yielded more courgettes, tomatoes and squash then she knew what to do with. The surplus was used to boost Hedge Veg sales and Sarah now also sells a range of artisan jams, jellies and chutneys.
'I didn't want to work in an office any more so I turned my attention to developing the Hedge Veg stall, which is in a perfect spot.'
Sarah said the picturesque setting was a magnet for passing tourists and walkers as well as attracting a loyal local fan base.
'We now grow a combination of glut vegetables for the chutneys as well as the fruit and vegetables.' In a bid to be self-sufficient all year round, some beans and herb seeds are kept for drying and used over winter but that, surely, is only a matter of time.
Set in the heart of rural parish of St Peter's (St Pierre du Bois), one farmer's market garden is growing much more than just produce. The Caritas Community Charity Trust offers young people a safe place to meet and talk - and it has resulted in a blooming success. The Trust was established by Reverend Richard Bellinger in 2007 to form a residential community to welcome and support young people in Guernsey.
A market garden was founded and, almost six years on, the initiative is going from strength to strength. Working together as a team and improving inter-personal skills are just two of the areas being nurtured by the project's leaders. On a practical level, participants gain better knowledge of the environment, budgeting, growing crops, using organic methods, nutrition and healthy eating.
Community volunteers manage the land 11 months of the year with 25 different crops grown. The success of the project has resulted in a 50% increase of crops being planted - just to meet demand. 'The good thing for us is that we now have a track record, whereas before we had a vision,' said Rev. Bellinger. Carrots and parsnips, rainbow chard and broad beans, potatoes and onions and beetroot and fennel are among the produce grown in abundance. 'We rotate our crops and grown everything organically and sustainably,' said Rev. Bellinger.
All money raised from sales goes back into the project. A range of different groups use the Trust ranging from the Prison Service to young people working towards their Duke of Edinburgh Awards. 'We have discovered that the young people coming to our market garden appreciate the relaxed, informal environment where they can talk about ant problems they may be having. 'It is about building relationships and understanding the island's young people.' Seasonal market produce from the Caritas project is available at the weekly St Martin's Farmer's Market.
It is hard to match the quality of the seafood found around the Guernsey coastline. The Bailiwick's often unforgiving waters have been fished for hundreds of years and are home to a staggering variety of seafood.
From the white fish of turbot, bass and brill, oily fishes like mackerel and some of the best shellfish in the world including lobster, chancre and spidercrabs and scallops, the island's sustainable approach to fishing means it is constantly supplied. While local seafood is sold through island supermarkets, it is still possible to buy direct from the fishermen at Seafresh fishmongers at the fishing quay, St Peter Port or in the weekly Farmer's Markets. Both sell freshly caught fish and shellfish, supplied straight off the fishing boats.
In the parish of the Vale there is the Crab Cabin, which sells freshly picked spider crab and chancre. A father and son team goes out at dawn to check their pots and the catch is collected, picked and sold from a small cabin at the family home. Seafood is best enjoyed in the summer, but is fresh and available throughout the year. The Bailiwick prides itself on having some of the best seafood in the world that is served up in island restaurants within hours of the catch being landed. It doesn't get fresher than that. If you love seafood then this is the island for you.
Many say that the island's fishermen are her finest sons, providing a living link with an industry that has existed for over 500 years. The ocean provided the mainstay of the local economy throughout the Middle Ages. Fish were caught, salted or dried in Guernsey and Sark, then shipped as far as Southern France. The same vessels returned home, laden with wine. The worn granite slabs at La Salerie, just to the north of St Peter Port, are the only reminder of that era, when the small, sheltered fishing harbour was once a busy centre for salting fish. A number of much-loved local traditions have their roots firmly fixed in the early years of the industry, including the Guernsey jumper, which was derived in the 17th Century. The oiled-woolen jumper was designed for fishermen to protect them from the elements.
Guernsey prospered for many years exporting preserved fish, until a new threat emerged over the horizon in the 16th Century. Cod, caught in huge numbers off the coast of Newfoundland, flooded the market. Some intrepid Guernsey fishermen decided to seek their fortunes across the Atlantic on the Great Banks, but it was their counterparts on the island of Jersey that really profited from this new trade. A regular fish market has always been part of life in St Peter Port. An impressive new building was constructed for the purpose in 1830 and, some 30 years later, the flourishing English railways delivered fresh Guernsey seafood straight to London.
At the end of the 19th century, the islands' fishermen were overtaken by the more advanced technology of mainland British fleets. Working their small, traditional sailing craft, locals struggled to compete with steam powered English boats, with their powerful new trawling systems. Many gave up the unequal struggle, turning to quarrying and horticulture to make a living. The golden age of Guernsey fishing was finally over. Today, the local market for fish is buoyant and a Guernsey fleet still plies local waters, supplying the islands' vibrant restaurant industry with a vast selection of seafood. While it may no longer be a major export, islanders' appetite for fresh fish is as healthy as ever and it is a main attraction for visitors.
The Ormer is a Guernsey delicacy and only available to collect on a specified number of low tides each year. Find out more about the 2014 Ormering Tides [101kb].
Hardy islanders spend hours wading through rock pools and over-turning seaweed, often in their own secret spot along Guernsey's coastline, in search of the elusive abalone. There are strict rules on collecting Ormers, all in order to protect future supplies. They are collected on a handful of dates between 1 January and 30 April. The minimum size for retaining Ormers is 8cm, measured along the longest axis of the shell and breach of any of the regulations protecting Ormers can incur a fine of up to £5000 or six months imprisonment. If you are lucky enough to successfully forage some, see our recipes page to discover how the locals cook them. Further details on these and other Guernsey Sea Fisheries regulations, including collecting dates, are available by phoning +44 (0) 1481 234567 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Guernsey farming may be firmly rooted in its long, rich history but the industry is looking towards the future.
While the Guernsey Cow is certainly our most famous herd, pigs, goats, chickens and lamb are all now being reared and sold locally within the Bailiwick.
The islands' farms, dotted across Guernsey's rural parishes, are not only the sole suppliers of the world-renowned dairy produce, but a valuable source of high quality meat.
In recent years, the shift towards supporting local suppliers has gained momentum and, with a number of smallholders taking the leap into commercial market, there is plenty to choose from.
Free range eggs can still be picked up from Hedge Veg stalls around the island's lanes and even goat's cheese, milk and yoghurt can be bought from the cottage in Les Sages, St Peters, where the goats graze.
This honest way of buying produce reflects the very roots that still ground both the farming and island community as a whole.
The Guernsey Cow produces some of the best milk in the world.
Islanders are not only proud of their native herd, but deeply fond of the golden breed.
The Guernsey was first recorded as a separate breed around 1700 but there is very little evidence that exists about the cattle of Guernsey prior to the early 19th century. It is thought its true origins lie in the development of cattle imported to the island from the nearby French mainland - the breed is similar to Isigny cattle originating in the Manche and Calvados regions.
The Royal Guernsey Agricultural Society was formed in 1817 with the specific aim of preserving the beauty of Guernsey cattle. Prior to this, they were known as Alderneys.
They became internationally-recognised in the late 18th century, when a number of island farmers emigrated - taking their animals with them - to the United States of America, where the Guernsey breed thrives today.
The Guernsey cow produces unique golden coloured milk, high in protein, butterfat and beta carotene. Research shows the Guernsey cow is a milk-producing marvel - this easy tempered beast lives longer than most other breeds, has the lowest incidence of calving difficulties, is popular for cross breeding and her milk and cheese quality is second to none.
Ironically, as pressures on land use and milk profitability increase in her island home, the number of Guernsey cows in Guernsey is now in decline.
With its world famous milk and award-winning cheese it is no wonder that Guernsey dairy produce is envied around the world.
Local herds produce approximately 8 million litres of milk per annum, 6.6 million litres of which is drunk locally as milk - the remainder is used to produce milk products butter, cream, cheese and ice-cream.
As well as mild, mature, extra mature and smoked varieties of cheeses, there is a more artisan range featuring flavours including garlic and paprika, cranberry and garlic, chilli flakes and oregano.
Alongside full cream, low fat and skilmmed milk, the dairy also produces organic milk, double, whipping and extra thick cream, salted and unsalted butters.
For a real treat try one of the dairies 12 mouth-watering varieties of ice creams, including chocolate chunk, honeycomb, rum and raisin, coconut, mint choc chip and strawberries and cream - not bad for an island just six miles long and four miles wide.
The famous cattle became known as Guernsey cattle when the Royal Guernsey Agricultural Society was formed in 1817 with the specific aim of preserving the beauty of Guernsey cattle. However, they were previously known as Alderneys.
Before the late 1930s the island had two private dairies, one a farmer's cooperative, the other, Grove Dairy was a private enterprise based in the parish of St. Andrew. Both were taken over by the States of Guernsey prior to the Second World War.
During the Occupation, all farmers were instructed to send their milk to one main processing facility. This continued after the island was liberated in May 1945, and by 1951 the island had its own purpose built dairy located in the heart of St. Andrew, which is still home to the current facility.
In the 1950s there were approximately 400 dairy farmers on the island caring for around 2,000 milking cows - an average of 5 cows per farm. Today, there are 18 working dairy farms, with a total population of 1,500 milking cows that produce milk to meet the islands' requirements.
In addition there are 1,200 others, mostly heifers (female animals 0-2 years of age) being reared as replacements for the existing population.
Each cow will eat approximately 15 tonnes of grass during the summer and about 12 tonnes of silage during winter. In addition to this, most cows will also consume 2 tonnes of imported cereal based feeds each year. Dairy cows can live to over 10-years-old.
All surplus milk goes into producing mature and mild cheddar, as well as outstanding smoked cheddar, which scooped a Gold medal at the World Cheese Awards in 2008, with the mild and extra mature cheeses each winning Bronze.
The following year, success was repeated when the dairy's mild cheese was awarded a Bronze medal at the British Cheese Awards and a Silver medal was presented to the extra-mature cheese at the World Cheese Awards.
The Guernsey Dairy recently introduced a soft cheese, 'Frie d'Or'. Named in the islands indigenous Norman language of Dgernésiais, it translates as 'Meadow of Gold' or 'Golden Meadow'.
For more information, go to Guernsey Dairy website.
One Guernsey butcher knows more than most when it comes to the provenance of what he puts under the counter.
Jason Hamon, butcher at local food retailer Forest Stores and the shop floor manager Matt Bateman hand-rear almost 100 pigs for their new range of local produce, Porky's.
They are quite literally bringing home the bacon in their quest for the perfect pork chop.
'This started out as a hobby, but it got a bit out of control,' said Jason.
The smallholding has grown considerably since the 33-year-old first started keeping pigs in 2006. What started with five piglets has grown to a drove of almost 100.
In 2008, he teamed up with Matt, 31, and relocated their boar, two sows and eight piglets to a field in St Saviour's.
They currently have three different breeds, Gloucester Old Spot, Large White, Berkshire and Oxford Sandy and Black.
Now Jason and Matt are seasoned pros, they have the largest drove in Guernsey, they are experimenting with crossbreeding to produce the perfect pork.
There are 57 pigs in the St Saviour's field, with remainder of the 98 at the Castel site, which the pair bought in May 2010.
'We kept on buying pigs and didn't have anywhere to put them. We had 108 at one stage,' said Jason.
The pigs are fed every day and water is refilled twice a day.
Jason's wife Nikki and Matt's wife Lisa tend to look after the Castel tribe, while the boys take care of the St Saviour's collective. By the boys' own admission they have every understanding wives - and that's not including the next generation of pig farmers who help out - the couples' team of young children.
The pigs get through a ton of the food pellets each week and also eat scrap fruit and vegetables from the shop. They are partial to strawberries and figs and the boys have been collecting tons (literally) of apples over the summer.
Their diet affects the taste of the meat and it is that attention to detail has put their produce nose to tail in front of the rest.
From the start, Jason always put the excess produce he had for sale under the counter at Forest Stores - and business is now booming.
As well as producing bacon, sausages, pork belly, chops and larger roasting joints, more recently the business has diversified into producing sausage rolls and pork pies, in conjunction with Kevin Gauvain, head chef and co-owner at La Croix Guerin cafe in St Martin's.
They are selling an average of 50 pork pies and between 80 and 100 sausage rolls each week, with the range soon expanding further to include a pork terrine and possibly scotch eggs.
If they got some chickens they could do the whole package.
'We've got 20 chickens already,' said Jason and Matt, in perfect harmony.
One artisan cheesemaker took inspiration from the island to produce her award-winning local cheese.
Fenella Maddison spent 25 years working as a nurse in the UK before relocating to Guernsey with her family in 2004.
She fancied a change of career and, inspired by a TV chef, began dabbling in cheese-making.
'I have no background in agriculture. But wish I had.
'Rick Stein's Food Heroes nudged me and the idea of cheese-making grew and grew,' said Fenella.
The original intention was to make goat's cheese and the first cheese went on sale in 2008 - but milk from the local Golden Guernsey breed could not meet demand so she made the change to a cheese made from Guernsey cows' milk.
Her family home is situated high on the hills overlooking a well-known island landmark, the Georgian coastal defence Fort Grey, and it was the perfect name for her new product, which first went on sale in February 2009.
The business which began in Fenella's kitchen has since evolved to a fully-equipped cheese room which was previously the family garage.
In November 2011, Fort Grey was awarded a Gold Medal at the World Cheese Awards and in Spring 2012 the cheese was featured on Countrywise Kitchen.
Fenella said she has received huge support from not only independent local stores but chefs who have committed to using her cheese on their menus.
'Tiny producers really need these relationships,' she said.
The future is to continue making six to eight batches per month and to sell it all.
'I imagine that I will remain one of the smallest producers in Great Britain.'
Torteval Cheese is on sale each Friday at the weekly Town Market in Market Square and on Saturday at the Farmer's Market at Sausmarez Manor, St Martin's. It is also sold in Forest Stores, La Tapenade delicatessen, St Peter Port, Torteval General Stores and the Channel Island Co-op, St Martin's. It is also used by chefs in a number of local restaurants and hotels.
There is little more iconic in the island than it's beautiful Guernsey cows and the Watts family has been at the forefront of the agricultural industry in the island for four decades.
Ray Watts has his favourites, but doesn't like to say in front of the rest of the herd.
The family is fiercely proud of their 130 strong herd and, in 2008, Meadow Court Farm won the Natwest small business of the year award at the Guernsey Awards for Achievement.
What no-one had anticipated that night was that they would also go on to beat large finance houses and corporate businesses to scoop the overall Commerce and Employment best Guernsey Business of the Year.
It was a sign of the times, and heralded a sea change in how and why people buy local food.
Primarily the herd is dairy - they produce 10% of the island's milk - but have recently diversified in to rose veal and Guernsey beef, which has had rave reviews and critical acclaim from the likes of well-known chefs Rick Stein and Shaun Rankin.
Ray has come a long way since he and his late wife Joc, moved into the 700-vergee Meadow Court Farm, nestled into the rolling hills of rural St Andrews, in 1970.
'When we first came over I cut hedges by hand and worked as a grower so we could get some money together to buy our first heffers,' said Ray.
He earned 50p an hour working in the greenhouses. That first winter they had 11 cows that produced calves.
'I would milk and feed the cows at 5.30am and then go to work, come back at 5pm and do the same, then after that I would work on the house. If you want something badly enough, you will do whatever it takes,' said Ray.
After training and working in agriculture in Australia and Canada, Ray's son James returned to Guernsey in 1997 to run another island farm.
The intention was always to combine the herds, something that was forced into place on 13 August 1999.
'Overnight I lost my sight and that five year plan was put into action that weekend.'
Suddenly they were milking between 160 and 170 cows through the Meadow Court Farm parlour, something that was taking nine hours every day.
The farm now has a herd of 130. Milking is still at 5am and 3.50pm and they produce 2,200 litres a day to reach their quota, set by the dairy.
'In 2007, we fitted a butchery at the Farm and that is when things really took off. We were selling home produced veal, beef and bacon and exclusively helping promote a new range of cheese produced at the dairy,' said Ray.
Every Saturday they are at the island's farmer's markets and have a loyal following.
Stockists of Meadow Court farm produce are Forest Stores, Charlie's Butchers at L'Islet and the Bridge and the Farmer's Markets at St Martin's and Le Friquet.
Among restaurants who serve Guernsey beef and veal are Fermain Valley, Da Nello's, the Farmhouse, the Market Kitchen and Croix Guerin.
The cows at one Guernsey farm can oversee their milk being churned into luxury ice-cream.
Le Hechet Farm is run by third generation farmers Katherine and Julian Ogier. They took over the running of the farm from Katherine's parents in 1996.
Katherine is one of three sisters, who are all involved in the local farming industry. Older sister Lizzy Naftel and her husband have an farm in St Andrew's that produces the island's organic milk and Rachel Torode helps make the ice-cream on site at Le Hechet farm in the Castel.
'When we were younger people would say to my dad that it was shame there were no sons to take over the family business.
'It's weird that two of the three of us married farmers,' said Katherine.
When they took over at Le Hechet, milk was the sole product from their 80-strong herd which, incidentally, all have names.
She and Julian get up at 4.45am every day to milk the cows which takes, on average, two hours. They are milked again at 3.30pm.
In 2006 Julian was keen to diversify and suggested they began producing peat - but Katherine didn't think it was particularly exciting. It was then he saw an advert in Farmer's Weekly about producing ice-cream.
At the time, Rachel, whose husband Steve is a paramedic, was looking to get more involved and before they knew it they had converted an outhouse at their farm into a high-spec commercial kitchen and ice cream production was underway.
They are the only Guernsey farm to be granted a licence to retain some of their milk for ice cream production.
They started selling it at the farmer's market but soon hotels and restaurants were placing orders too.
Katherine and Rachel produce 200 litres of ice-cream on one day each week and now have a menu of around 30 different flavours. These include all the favourites plus more unusual flavours such as peanut butter, liquorice, cinnamon and ginger. The best selling is honeycomb.
In the spirit of 'waste not, want not' the discarded egg whites are transformed into the most sensational meringues, which have been a surprisingly successful offshoot.
They pride themselves on getting the milk to ice-cream within an hour and with no artificial colours or preservatives used. Food miles do not exist in the production of this home-reared product. Not when the cows are watching through the window.
Farmhouse ice-cream is available from Forest Stores. The family also sell it at the summer shows and seafront Sunday events along the St Peter Port seafront. The meringues can be bought from Peter Lesbirel's vegetable stall near St Peter's Checkers store
The cellars and vaults of St Peter Port have benefited from the island's colourful history of global trading. As a key port from Roman times, goods have made their way to the island from ships en route to the UK from across Europe to the Americas.
Brandy and wine have come from France, Spain and Portugal as well as rum from the West Indies. Guernsey was perfect for investors who wanted to buy and speculate. Goods could be imported without paying English taxes and stored until the optimum time for sale.
Many of the island's 18th century merchant adventurers exploited this position to the full. Guernsey prospered and these entrepreneurs developed a taste for the good life. St Peter Port became a bustling, cosmopolitan port - a legacy that is echoed today. The island has had a brewery since the mid 19th century and, in recent years, Guernsey's cider making industry has been revived. In 2010 vineyards were planted in Sark and in the summer of 2012, the first bottles of wine were being tentatively produced. It is hoped that by 2013, the vineyards will be producing wine for the island and, eventually to also export. Locals even manage to combine their taste for a tipple with their love of nature. Autumn sees islanders strolling the south coast cliffs, bag in hand, searching out the blue-black fruit of the blackthorn. The little berry - known as the sloe - is the vital ingredient for sloe gin, a DIY drink that never goes out of fashion.
Randall's Brewery was established by Robert Henry Randall in 1868. The original site, Vauxlaurens Brewery, remained the home of Randalls for 140 years. In 1900, following the death of RH, his son Robert William Randall took over the running of the company at the age of just 22. He proved equal to the challenge and further expanded the business in the process turning Randalls into a limited company, hence R.W. Randall Ltd which remains its registered name today.
As well as developing the business many members of the Randalls family served in the armed forces and were awarded numerous honours. When the Royal Guernsey Militia was reconstituted in 1922, RW was made Honorary Lieutenant Colonel. Members of the Randalls family owned and ran R.W. Randall Ltd right up until 2006, when they decided to sell the company to a group of private investors. Under new leadership and with new investment Randalls has moved to a purpose built warehouse, installed a bespoke 60hl brewery and bought a chain of off-licences and airport shops and the refurbishment of many of its tenanted pubs.
With its strong Norman heritage, Guernsey was once an accomplished cider-growing island. That tradition has been reborn and an ancient cider orchard in the rural heart of the island is once again bearing fruit. Cider production in Guernsey thrived in the island from the 1700's and most farms would have a cider press consisting of a granite circular trough and oak press, often originating from France. Some troughs can still be seen. At the Guernsey Folk and Costume Museum, at Saumarez Park, a cider press dating from 1734 as well as other cider making equipment can still be seen. The industry went into decline in the 20th century partly due to the occupation of the island by German forces (1940 -45) but also due to changes in farming methods and other factors. However, the industry has experienced a revival in recent years and currently the Guernsey Cider Company crop approximately 30 tons of apples annually to produce the very popular Rocquette Cider. James Meller set up the Company at Les Fauxquets de Haut in the parish of the Castel, which ironically was an original cider-making site and to date approximately 3000 trees have been planted in the surrounding area.
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