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Chips are down as spud planting begins

Date: 02/02/2009 | Posted by John Garton
A record number of primary schoolchildren will take part in the third annual Genuine Jersey Royal Growing Competition. More than 100 classes from 18 schools – with an average of 25 pupils in each - have signed up to take part in the challenge to see who can grow the greatest weight of potatoes.

The competition is organised by the Jersey Royal Potato Company and sponsored by the Genuine Jersey Products Association and Health Promotion Unit. Each class to enter will receive a growing kit which includes seed potatoes, a container, compost, fertilizer and teaching aids.

Tom Binet of the Jersey Royal Company says: "Jersey Royals are the Island's biggest export crop and when in season account for a large percentage of all potato sales in the UK. Farmers in Jersey have been working with the Jersey Royal for well over 100 years and this competition is a fun way of passing some of that experience on to a new generation of Islanders.”

As part of the competition, the Jersey Royal Company is offering schools the chance to visit nearby potato fields and their packing houses to see how commercial crops are grown and harvested.

The event is designed to support many areas of the school curriculum by showing children how things grow, where food comes from, understanding the history of the Jersey Royal and the importance of a balanced healthy diet. To support their entries, schools also submit class work which in the past has involved projects in English, history, geography, science and mathematics.

John Garton is the Chief Executive of Genuine Jersey Products Association. He says: “There is huge support for this competition and we are delighted to be able to offer it to school children once again. The Jersey Royal is an iconic product which continues to be hugely significant to the Island in terms of its heritage and economy. The competition provides a great way of teaching young people the historical importance of the Jersey Royal as well as relating it to today’s learning.”

St Lawrence School has won the competition for the past two years and has signed up for 2009 in the hope of scoring a hat-trick. The Head teacher, Chris Jones, said pupils were eagerly awaiting the return of the competition because it makes for fun learning in so many areas.

Mr Jones says: “There are high hopes for St Lawrence this year and we don’t want to disappoint. Pupils really enjoy the fact that they are responsible for taking care of a crop and I know there will be a great competitive spirit between classes hoping to produce the healthiest plants.”

Helvetia House School is a new entrant to the competition. Head teacher Lindsey Woodward said they decided to take part as it linked in with the school’s healthy eating campaign. As well as potatoes, they shall be growing other vegetables and soft fruit.

Mrs Woodward says; ‘By growing produce at the school it will emphasise the importance of healthy eating and the nutritional value of fresh fruit and vegetables.’

The results of the four-month contest will be judged by a panel of agricultural experts and will be announced in May.