Steve is a born and bred Jerseyman. He started farming from the tender age of 17 and proudly follows in the footsteps of several generations of Labey farmers on the island. The family are related to the Le Maistres who also farm Jersey Royals on the island.
Steve’s grandfather started farming tomatoes in Jersey in 1928 before the second World War and then branched out to grow the famous Jersey Royals. In 1989, Steve started his own farm on the same site as where his grandfather had worked and has now been in the industry for over 30 years. The farm is run by Steve and his wife Vicky, alongside Steve’s son who at just 18 years old is following in his family footsteps.
The Labeys have an on-site livery yard where they keep the working horses and prefer to use traditional farming methods including hand planting and harvesting. Alongside the seasonal spuds, Steve harvests Jersey seaweed (vraic) in October/ November time and this is mostly used on the sandier soils, as the seaweed helps with moisture retention, hydrating the soil and gives the Jersey Royals extra nutrients and flavour.
The environment is very important to the Labey family, and they aim to protect it as much as possible. The farm is certified with the Red Tractor logo, a quality assurance that the food has been produced to a high standard throughout the process. Also, similarly to the other farms on Jersey they are part of the LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) organisation which aims to look after the land and surrounding wildlife. The farm has several barn owl nesting boxes on the land, and they also grow bird seeds for the local wild bird population.
The most rewarding part of the job is at the start of April when the workers remove the covers from the Jersey Royals during the early part of the lifting. It is so exciting to see the first fruits of their labour, and the potatoes always taste especially delicious in that early batch. At the height of the season, the team on Steve’s farm work long days either planting all day in the winter months or lifting all day when the potatoes are ready. The work is weather dependent, so it’s tricky when there’s a lot of rain. Steve has seen all sorts of weather as a Jersey Royal farmer, be it snow, gale force winds or frost. Wintry weather is a particular factor in Jersey Royal farming as most other potato varieties are not planted until later in the season it’s a huge issue for Jerseys to contend with.
The Labey family enjoys being part of the local community and hosts a float for the Annual Battle of Flowers in August each year, Jersey’s biggest summer event. The much-anticipated Battle of Flowers is a carnival with floats decorated with fresh flowers which then parade beautifully around the island. It’s a great way to celebrate the end of the Jersey Royal season.
Steve’s favourite way to eat Jersey Royals is boiled with butter and nothing else – not even mint! At the height of the season there are so many potatoes that the family eat them every night!
Steve’s favourite thing about living and working on Jersey is having the countryside and the sea on their doorstep. Based on Jersey’s west coast, Steve’s family can see 5 miles of beach – just a minute away if anyone fancies a swim!