Organic veg box company Riverford's #GetFairAboutFarming petition was debated by MPs from all three major parties this week.

A long way from my hedge

While it was great to hear unanimous and cross-party support for all aspects of our petition in the parliamentary debate, there is still some way to go to achieve real fairness for farmers.

Dawn broke on Victoria Gardens, outside the Houses of Parliament, to reveal 49 scarecrows. They stood stark, silent, and anonymous, like the 49 per cent of farmers who fear they will be driven out of business this year, largely by supermarket buying practices. The Riverford co-owners who have led our #GetFairAboutFarming campaign were joined by farmers, politicians, customers, and a large media presence. Huge thanks to the 112,000 of you who signed the petition, forcing a debate – and to those who wrote to your MPs, encouraging them to show up.

Cycling up the Thames, as Big Ben emerged in the rising sun, I felt an unexpected excitement and privilege at living and participating in a modern democracy, however flawed it may be. As Churchill pragmatically said, “Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried.”

While it was great to hear unanimous and cross-party support for all aspects of our petition in the ensuing debate, there is still some way to go to achieve real fairness for farmers. The Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries’ final comments agreed with the petition’s aims, but suggested that our government had it covered with their existing plans – offering little reassurance to an industry in crisis.

We hope that with the groundswell of support behind the campaign, we can continue to shine a light on the bullying behaviours of supermarkets, and push for a return of honesty and decency to our supply chains. There was never going to be a quick solution to an issue this complicated, involving such powerful corporations – but it felt like our message was heard loud and clear, and we’ll be making sure it stays that way. Exhausting as it has been, we are far from done.

Our increasingly dysfunctional food and farming system is shaped by an unregulated market – and those with the power to regulate it continue to abdicate that responsibility, in the blinkered conviction that the market can solve any problem, however complex. Money is the only metric they accept, never mind the costs to our environment, wildlife, health, and wider society.

I am convinced that this is not what most of us want, and I will fight for something better to my dying day, even while I would rather have my head in a hedge. Thank you again to all who have supported us in this, particularly those who showed up at Westminster.


Leave a Reply

  1. Great initiative and it was good to see some recognition for Guy’s work in the debate, as well as a lot of examples of what small farmers face. Then the Minister 🤪 with the usual ‘what good points my honourable colleagues have made … but actually we’re just going to carry on doing what we were before’. If you plan any follow-up action, is there any way non-farmer customers can help?

  2. Why do ministers think anything is going to change for the better if they carry on doing the same thing? It’s so frustrating. Thank you for your fortitude in this fight for a better way. I’m not a food farmer, but I am a flower farmer who also grows veg and fruit for our own use, and I support you and the farmer’s wholeheartedly. We need radical change and a shift away from the rampant capitalism of the supermarkets, before it’s too late. Thank you again for being such a shining light.

  3. Well done indeed! But where should the Government, present or future, go from here? What are the weak areas in the supermarkets’ armour? Their shareholders? And what are theirs? And apart from Government ‘doing the right thing’, what can push this up its priority list?
    Good luck!! 💪🏼💪🏼💪🏼

  4. Whilst the petitioners hoped for governance those with the tools to govern remained bystanders and offered laudable words but no action. To keep doing what we are currently doing to agriculture’s is a recipe for abject national failure.

    Sadly a failure to govern (because governing costs money) has led to a national fall in acceptable behaviours from big business. Banks remember 2008? Water (thousands of crimes against our rivers and seas, Energy numerous failed companies and Europe’s highest prices to keep our lights on, no grid capacity for renewable generation). The list of government failure of regulators is systemic and a governmental disgrace. Meanwhile whole sectors of the nation suffer illegal harms with no remedy. Is too much to require the resources to pay to prevent harm? It is always more costly to suffer real consequences than prevent harm. Business as usual is harming people, wildlife, and dependant businesses. Action? Just remember when voting to ask who will actually enforce our laws? Failure to do so costs the earth.

  5. So what we must do is stop waiting for government to change. They will not. The powers that be have no intention to. It is up to us to support local farmers. Minimise going to a supermarket. Money speaks and if they are not getting paid to rip farmers off it will have to stop. We just need to go more local and take the initative just as Guy has done. Doesnt require a fight, simply setting up sustainable systems locally, there are several starting or already started.

  6. I read the debate and it seemed to me less a debate than a succession of prepared speeches and the minister’s concluding remarks dismaying. Still, it was a tremendous achievement to get this far; the scarecrows said more than the politicians. A thousand thanks, Guy and everyone at Riverford, for being a beacon of sanity and inspiration.


In case you missed it

Receive the Digital Digest

Food, Farming, Fairness, every Friday.

Learn more

About us

Find out more about Wicked Leeks and our publisher, organic veg box company Riverford.

Learn more