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Conferences and crusties

Since Riverford became employee owned, I give a lot of talks, often to mainstream business audiences. I charge as much as I dare, and give it all to our charity partner Send a Cow.

After years of getting angry on the fringe, I am making like a Trojan horse and trying to break the stranglehold of unimaginative business from the inside. This week it was a conference of the UK’s largest veg growers, along with their supermarket buyers, plus a few politicians.

I was very glad to have left this world 20 years ago; a world that purported to be the inevitable result of rationality, but to me seemed a fantasy of denial of what 99 per cent of climate scientists tell us. There was a lot of talk about packaging, some about reducing waste, and some about nutritional enhancement – but no one questioned the wisdom of air freight, of heated glass, of sacrificing our planet to meet the whims of customers. I had no sense that our food and environment were safe with these ‘rationalists’.

Guy
'No one questioned the wisdom of air freight' - Guy Singh-Watson. Image @fredfruitnet.

On the train home, I found myself sitting next to two men with dreads and beards whom I suspect our PM would describe as “crusty”. To my amazement, they started talking about the wonderful tomatoes they were growing; how they cooked them up with their own basil for their community centre, serving lunches for £3.45 (children free). The dirt on their clothes was soil. My faith in humanity and enterprise came rushing back. I sat quiet, but I wanted to hug them.

When those with power and influence show themselves incapable of thinking beyond their short-term self-interest, when governance is patently unsafe for our children and planet, it is our duty to protest until those with power start to act.

That is why we are sending veg to feed the Extinction Rebellion, and why I will be with them today, if only briefly, on my way to giving another talk. We must build pressure for change from inside and out, until it is irresistible.

Pumpkin Day is on the way - book your tickets now 

Pull on your wellies and join us on Wash Farm, Devon on Saturday 26 October for our annual family-friendly pumpkin celebration. This year, it’s 100 per cent plastic free! Find out more and book your tickets at riverford.co.uk/pumpkinday. We are not holding events at Norton Farm or Sacrewell Farm this year – but we will be holding ‘Pick Your Own Pumpkin’ weeks instead. More info soon.

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    Guy Singh-Watson

    Guy Singh-Watson has over the last 30 years taken Riverford from one man and a wheelbarrow delivering homegrown organic veg to friends, to a national veg box scheme delivering to around 80,000 customers a week. Tired of meetings, brands and the assumption that greed is our predominant motivation, Guy converted the business to employee ownership in 2018, using the proceeds to buy a small farm and return to growing organic vegetables. In common with many of Riverford’s new co-owners, Guy is an advocate of using business to shape a part of the world, however small, to be kinder, more considerate and sustainable; more like the world most of us want to live in.  His weekly newsletters connect people to the farm with refreshingly honest accounts of the trials and tribulations of producing organic food, and the occasional rant about farming, ethical and business issues he feels strongly about.

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