25 years ago, having given up my brief career as a management consultant, I returned to my father’s farm for Christmas to rethink my life. Milking cows in a family partnership hadn’t worked for me; nor had the urban hedonism of 1980s London and New York. I concluded that I was unemployable and so would start my own business.
By Easter, I had ploughed up the best field on the farm and sown my first leeks, lettuces, cabbages and sprouts. I had beginner’s luck; those first seeds emerged well and a demonic determination gripped me. I worked day and night, invested every penny back in the business and was considered mad by my neglected friends and family. I was going to make it in veg if it killed me. I took setbacks personally, but never seriously doubted I had found my path – even when faced with docks, couch grass, pestilence and supermarket buyers. 25 years on I have mellowed a bit, but remain as obsessed by veg as ever. Somehow in the intervening years I have gathered followers (co-op members, joint venture partners, 450 staff, franchisees who deliver your boxes) and spawned a giant. Every three seconds, on one of our four farms, we are packing a veg box; 40,000 each week. Scale has brought opportunities to challenge the norms of farming and business and I’m fairly sure we have made things a little bit better for our staff, suppliers, the environment and for you, our customers. Without your support I’d still be moaning about supermarkets like a stuck record. Together, we have challenged and fought for a better way, and for that, I am both grateful and proud. From all our suppliers and everyone at Riverford… a big thank you. We’d love to see you at our Pumpkin Days at the end of October for a bit of a celebration – more details to follow.