La Chasserie

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La Chasserie

From St Lawrence Jersey - A Celebration of Our Parish

Farming in the late 19th and early 20th centuries - The Ahier family of La Chasserie

1891 - a farmer experiments in Jersey

St Lawrence farmers were among the most progressive of Jersey agriculturalists, as is shown by an article in The Field magazine of 25 July 1891, written by Francis J Ahier and entitled 'A Jersey Milk Record and Analysis of the Year's Milk'. He explained the results of experiments with artificial feed using the cows in his father's herd at La Chasserie - the first time this had been done in Jersey.

1912 - a snapshot of the Ahiers at La Chasserie

Many generations had already farmed at La Chasserie by this time, and the head of the family in 1912, 70-year-old Francis L Ahier, had inherited the 28 vergee property from his father, later adding a neighbouring farm with a further 32 vergees. Five people lived on the farm - Francis, his 60-year-old wife, his two daughters, aged 45 and 40, and his 36-year-old son. Although Francis still worked, his son ran the farm, helped by his older sisters - though their future was less than secure, as they would be expected to leave the family home if their brother ever married and a new mistress arrived at the farm.

The farm still had many fruit trees for cider making, while there were eight cows, 11 heifers and two bulls, with much of the milk produced made into butter for ramily use and for sale. Working for the family were five journaliers, both men and women, as well as between 12 and 17 Breton workers for the potato digging. These workers would be put up in the ancienne maison, the old farmhouse, long since replaced by a new spacious house for the family itself.

The son had been to school in Jersey and had then gone to Cambridge University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree. He had always intended to return to the family farm and make use of his scientific knowledge to improve the cultivation of the farm. Continuing the family tradition of innovation, the son had already put into practice the novel idea of alternating rows of tomatoes with rows of narcissi in his fields. For the first time La Chasserie was a farm with a difference, selling flowers in large quantities as well as the usual farm produce. In August, for example, they had sold flowers to the florists for the Battle of Flowers which was already attracting large numbers of tourists to Jersey since it began in 1902 as part of the celebrations for the coronation of King Edward VII.

Writing about the Ahier family in 1912 P Galichet describes the Ahier family as being typical of the Jersey farmer, showing a great capacity for work, effective exploitation of the land and an entrepreneurial spirit taking any chances to expand the farm.

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