Bleaker Island : : Farming
In his Notes from Bleaker Island and other places in the Falkland Islands (recorded by Arthur F Cobb, mostly between 1906 and 1923, and transcribed in 1996 by Robin Woods) Cobb records that “In 1871 the whole of Bleaker Island was fringed with tussac and sole inhabitants were wild pigs…..” During his managership he then tells us that “the names of the tussac paddocks were Hunter’s Bog, Hyde Park, Green Park, Triangle and Parson Johnson’s”, and that between 1917 and 1918 a total of 87,000 tussac roots were planted.
Cobb’s vision prepared the foundations for the future of farming on Bleaker Island, and tussac continues to be an indispensable food supplement for cattle during winter months when grass growth is minimal. The sustainability of tussac is carefully managed to ensure long term viability, although it does take some months to recover fully. Elsewhere, extensive greens provide excellent summer pasture, naturally fertilised by geese (who also eat a lot of it!) and seabirds.
The current certified organic status of Bleaker Island was not hard to achieve, as it has been farmed on an organic basis for many years. Incidentally, with 35% of the Falkland Islands now organically certified, worldwide this puts the whole country right at the top as regards the greatest percentage of land organically certified.
Sheep stocking rates have considerably reduced from the practices of 100 years ago, from 3500 head then to 1000 head now, whilst a nucleus of 55 Hereford breeding cows imported from Chile in 2004 provide a regular supply of good organic steaks!