Back in the 1990s, when I was still striving to appease supermarket buyers, I was appalled by the waste that inevitably resulted from pursuing their fickle favour.
Veg boxes are the antithesis of this. The contents of your boxes have been meticulously planned; cropping plans and prices agreed with our growers right up to May 2014; a few cabbage seedlings are already germinating under the grass. All that planning and commitment reduces waste, allows our farmers to invest with confidence, and helps us to keep prices down – and stable. Sticking to those commitments makes us a little less flexible and responsive to fashions and trends than we might be; the stuff has to grow first.
Having made our plans and done our sums, we will be putting up veg box prices by an average of 4.1% on 1st January; sorry, but it’s only once a year. After the worst growing year we have experienced, we need to return a little more to growers, particularly those with the more risky green crops. Most are being incredibly stoical with an unshakeable faith that things can’t be as bad next year, but bank balances have been drained this year and they need the prospect of some profit to keep taking those risks.
A small piece of good news is that we are removing the charges for debit card payments. I have harboured a minor obsession with how these charges are concealed in transactions and as a point of principle wanted to make them visible. However, what started as a principle has become a niggling annoyance to customers and staff so I am bowing to convention on this one. Charges on credit cards will remain: transactions cost more, and most people can opt to avoid them by using a debit card.
Finally, I am officially the BBC Farmer of the Year; a fine honour and one that I cherish dearly. I won the title in 2004 but it means so much more to win when times are hard; I feel we have earned it this time and I can’t stop smiling. The title itself is good, but winning is made so much better by all the messages of support from staff, customers, suppliers and other farmers.