As I write, the sun is out, the pressure is building and there is a faint hope of some settled weather. Already the days are starting to draw out and there is a sense of renewal. I can almost hear the earthworms gasp as some air gets back into the soil. Surely this will be a better year. One confused primrose in bloom is enough to fill me with optimism. The run up to Christmas is always insanely busy and overwhelmingly focused on survival. No-one wants to talk to me or listen to my latest idea so I am obliged to stand back, watch and marvel; we really are good at what we do. Can I say that without courting complacency, the death of many an organisation?
I have spent 25 years searching for better ways of growing, harvesting, packing and selling our vegetables and, more recently, dreaming up ways of encouraging people to cook with them. My self-appointed role has been to look for what we do worst and then stamp my feet, obsess and make everyone’s life hell until we have improved it. I suspect this perpetual state of restless dissatisfaction is fairly typical of entrepreneurs and may well constitute a mild form of madness; it is hard to live with, anyway. Most people work best when they feel good about themselves, so perhaps it is me that needs to be improved.
My resolution for 2013 is to enjoy our achievements, to celebrate and encourage more. I know there are more than a few amongst you that have a vision of me and a few rustics gathering your veg each week. It does all still feel very personal but there are almost 400 people now picking, packing, grading and delivering, plus a bevy of IT wizards, accountants, cooks and mechanics. To stand back and watch is to marvel at human ingenuity, flexibility, learning, communication, planning and determination. It could so easily fall apart if it wasn’t for the shared values and direction; there is always a host of people ready to pick up and repair when things fall, as they inevitably do from time to time. We are an incredible species and these 400, together, make Riverford an incredible business.