Farmer’s Field in St Martin, opened by former England cricketer Geoffrey Boycott on 22 May 2005, has become a premier focus for long-serving club member Jim Perchard, who successfully converted a portion of his agricultural land into one of Jersey’s most pristine sports facilities.
In the summer of 2003 Perchard was granted permission by the Planning department to reassign one of his potato fields and later that year he began sewing seeds. By late summer 2004 casual friendly games were being played on the pitch but it was not until the following year that the facility was fully fit for purpose.
Alongside Boycott, who was knighted last year, former England captain Mike Gatting attended the official opening of the pitch and pavilion and he took part in a friendly between a Farmers XI and a JICC XI, after a junior game that morning.
The ground – still the only privately run facility of its kind in Jersey – has since become a favourite for Island and visiting players alike and in 2019 was voted one of the top ten club grounds in the country via an online poll run by international cricket agency CricX. Inter-insular clashes are now a regular feature there, alongside international fixtures when Jersey hosts ICC events.
Perchard said: ‘I was in the pavilion the other day and I looked at the board and the plaque that Geoff Boycott uncovered, and I thought “my goodness, that’s in a couple of day’s time”. It has gone so quickly.
‘Farmers Cricket Club formed over 40 years ago, just a group of farmers who’d play friendly cricket at the end of the potato season. We would regularly discuss at the end of a game how great it would be to have our own ground but those discussions took place for 30 years. We thought it was never going to happen.
‘When we formally opened it on 22 May 2005 Mike Gatting played for a Farmers XI ... it was a nice day, lovely weather, and in the 15 years since then it has become a great community asset. We have a vibrant group of young players and children who have been introduced to the game through Farmers and a great community spirit has developed up here, which gives me great pleasure to see. We’ve got a license, a bar, which encourages people to come up for a pint and watch the game and we do get a good level of home support.
‘I am still very proud of the achievement. It is now the home of Farmers Cricket Club but it’s still my baby to maintain and look after, which I enjoy doing.
‘We have our turn at hosting the inter-insular and when Jersey hosts international tournaments Farmer’s is on the menu there. It gives me great satisfaction seeing good players on the field and they’re consistently challenging my skills as a groundsman, to keep them satisfied. Batsmen enjoy batting and bowlers enjoy bowling on it and if someone at the end says so, it’s uplifting, I take that as a compliment.’
And even through recent troubled times Perchard has remained busy – continuing with important upkeep of the pitch during the Covid-19 pandemic while also providing an important outlet for club members.
‘All the boys are desperately disappointed that there’s no cricket this year,’ he said.
‘We do have a strong family ethic at the club so we have been able to allow fathers and sons up here to use our roll-on nets, under tight protocols. One family can use it for one hour and then another family uses it for another hour afterwards.
‘Over the last few weekends we’ve had a full diary on Saturdays and Sundays and I’m sure it will be the same again this weekend.’