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Ethical business   |   Environment & ethics

Guy’s news: Good news for birds, bees – and organic farmers

Guy is on holiday this week, hopefully enjoying better weather than we are. In his absence, we are using his space to share the heartening results from the 2018 Soil Association Organic Market Report. In fields and shops alike, the organic sector is seeing its sixth year of strong growth. The amount of UK farmland going organic has increased by 22% since 2016, and organic food sales are at an all-time high, growing by 6% (against non-organic sales growth of just 2%).

This is good news for us at Riverford, of course, but also for the planet. Organic farming is about working with nature, not against it. This principle guides all sorts of choices: from never using artificial pesticides and fertilisers, to maintaining wide field margins, mature hedgerows, reservoirs and healthy soil. We leave our hedgerows uncut between March and August so the local wildlife
can breed in peace. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it: new Soil Association research shows that plant, insect and bird life is typically 50% more abundant on organic farms, which can be home to 30% more species.

Organic certification also demands the highest level of animal welfare – setting much higher standards than, for example, free range. Animals have real freedom to roam on open pasture, enjoy a rich natural diet, and are reared without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics or wormers. Riverford’s meat all comes from small-scale West Country farmers we know and trust. Our fresh milk for customers in the South comes from the Riverford Dairy (owned by Guy’s brother and sister), and from the Tweddle family’s Acorn Dairy for customers in the North and East. The cows do a good job of making sure nothing goes to waste here in Devon… they will cheerfully devour any grade-out veg that isn’t good enough for human plates. Broccoli is their favourite!

30 years ago, when Guy first started growing veg in one field of his family’s farm, there was little evidence to support organic methods. In Guy’s own words, he chose organic ‘largely because it just felt right’. Since then, we’ve stuck by organic through thick and thin, supported by you, our customers. It’s good to see this growth, and to know that organic is beginning to feel right to a new generation of farmers and shoppers. Long may it continue.