Sunday 3 July 2016

Riverford Organic Farmers

Farm interviews
Today we were lucky enough to speak with a few of the Riverford Farm workers, pioneers of the organic veg box scheme. They have been growing organic produce for over 35 and are now one of the biggest veg box suppliers in the country. Keep checking onto our blog because over the next few weeks we will be reviewing some scrumptious, yet accessible recipes their latest cookbooks.

JP: Could you give a summary of your farm and its history, how big is it, what sort of model you are running?

R: Riverford was one of the pioneering organic vegetable box schemes, founded nearly 25 years ago by Guy Watson, who still owns and runs it. Riverford, the Watson family farm in Devon, is at the heart of Guy’s veg box scheme, and various other Watson family enterprises: a dairy herd and award-winning dairy which produces our milk, cream, and yoghurt; a farm shop, kitchen and bakery; the meat box business and the Field Kitchen restaurant. The farm has a 25 year history of producing high quality fresh seasonal food and building the connection between consumer and grower (Riverford was the first farm in the country to open to the public back in the 1970s). Riverford now deliver their iconic organic veg boxes, meat and more to 47,000 homes a week across England and South Wales.

JP: Is your produce organic?

R: Yes, all 100% organic.

JP: What are you most proud of about your farm and why?

R: We are one of the larger box schemes, which enables us to offer varied box contents, flexibility, good value and service. We grow the vegetables ourselves, giving our customers a real connection with the farm, which customers are welcome to come and visit. All deliveries are by our local vegmen/ladies, not couriers. As well as our original farm in Devon, we have regional farms in Cambridgeshire, Yorkshire and Hampshire, so that vegetables can be grown and distributed more locally. There are a few outstanding local box schemes that grow a good range and distribute locally and should be supported. For a bigger box scheme, we believe ours is a really good model. We are also really proud that despite our growth, our original company ethos to look after everything from the land, to the wildlife, to our growers and customers, has never been compromised; we never cut corners or take the easy route, but do the right thing.

JP: What services do you offer?

R: We have a wide range of veg boxes, fruit boxes, meat boxes, and recipe boxes (everything needed to make seasonal home-cooked meals). We also sell a range of dairy (from our own dairy herd) and organic cooking staples (grains, oils and vinegars etc).

JP: Are you open to vegetable enthusiasts visiting?

R: Yes! We do farm tours.

JP: What are you currently growing?

R: At the moment we have been busy picking pak choi, kohlrabi, summer turnips, rhubarb and more. We’re looking forward to broad beans, sweetcorn and lots of other lovely summer veg that will soon be ready for harvest.

JP: Do you have a favourite vegetable to grow?

R: Guy’s favourite vegetable is the cardoon.

JP: Thanks again for your time, good luck for the seasons to come.

Interviewed by Jan Philips 
To follow Riverford Organic Farmers visit their website and FB page. 

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