Father of Riverford founder passes away

John Watson, of Riverford Farm and father of Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson, has passed away aged 93.

John Watson
John Watson has passed away aged 93

John Watson, of Riverford Farm, Staverton, and father of Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson, died quietly on 4 January 2019, after seven decades as part of the South Devon landscape.

As a young post-war farmer, he arrived to take up the tenancy of 120 acres at Riverford in 1951, with 20 Ayrshire cows, little practical experience and high ideals. His seven decades of innovative living and pioneering thinking started with his introduction of the first tractor to a farm previously worked by horses, and concluded with an experiment in low-carbon communal living on a small holding.

He and his wife Gillian produced five children and with them a fist of food and farming enterprises: Riverford Farm, the Riverford Organic Dairy; Ben’s Farm Shops (and Wine and Tapas Bar), the Riverford veg box business and Field Kitchen farm restaurant. 

He leaves two daughters and three sons, all working in the family businesses, fourteen grandchildren and one great granddaughter.  We will run a longer profile of this influential and inspiring figure in the next week or two.


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  1. So sorry. I remember the first time we visited Riverford, John was at at old apple press making delicious juice. Pumpkin day 2003 I believe. Seemed like a nice man.

  2. Dear Guy

    Countering the excitement of the arrival of our weekly box of Riverford magic, was the very sad news of the passing of your father John. I am so sorry for your loss.

    I am reminded of a greeting I received from a complete stranger at my late Fathers funeral, on the steps of Gibraltar Cathedral, 18 months ago. He introduced himself very politely and simply said “I lost my Father 10 years ago, he walks with me every day.” He smiled knowingly and warmly without needing any verbal response and left.

    My Father has walked with me every day since then.

    I wish the same for you and your family at this very difficult time and hope this simple wish from a complete stranger helps.

    With warmest wishes



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