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News from the farm   |   Farming

Valuing what is close

We are settling into the new reality, with gratitude that we still have a business and can be of some use. Social distancing is relatively easy in the fields, but more challenging in the barns. It is especially sad to see Riverford co-owners spaced apart, unable to sit and eat together, during breaks – but we are the lucky ones, still with work to do.

Numerous messages of appreciation and support for our drivers, stuck to windows and boxes, have been greatly appreciated. We ask that customers continue to leave our boxes out in advance and observe distancing on the doorstep.  

The sun has emerged with a forgotten force, drying out fields that have been sodden since September. My vulnerable neighbour is self-isolating in his tractor cab while ripping out failed winter wheat to sow spring barley. On our side of the hedge, we have spread muck and ploughed the better-drained fields, to sow peas and plant pak choi, lettuce and cabbages.

Last season’s leeks, cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli and kales are rushing to maturity under the sun, enjoying a last flush of growth before running to seed. All will be gone within a month, as we enter the Hungry Gap (after UK winter crops have finished) and wait for spring’s crops to emerge. Let’s hope the borders stay open, truck drivers stay healthy, and there are enough pickers in France, Spain and Italy to get us through the Gap.

In an attempt to deliver as much as possible with depleted resources, we have reverted to a simpler offer, focusing mainly on fruit and veg boxes; after almost 30 years of ever-growing choice and complexity in our range, it feels like stepping back in time. Perhaps my most reliable pleasure is to walk home across the fields, picking what is in season to cook for loved ones.

What we do has been shaped by the desire to share the seasonal bounty of our fields, augmented by stories and recipes, with as many people – but with as little fuss and waste – as possible. But there is no doubt that the fuss has grown over the years. Did we try too hard to please too many? I sometimes think so. If there is a silver lining to this cloud, it may be that we learn to value more what is close – be that vegetables or people.

As so many of you are cooking from a veg box for the first time, we plan to offer many more recipes and tips to help you rise to the challenge. Look out for this next week; and in the meanwhile, if you're a customer, you might consider joining our lively Facebook community ‘Riverford Tribe’, for lots of ideas and support from fellow customers.

Comments

alma

1 Year 5 Months

All sounds positive as it has for the last 10 or more years. But why cant i order a vegbox, as directed in the email i was sent yesterday?

1 Reply

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Comments Editor

1 Year 5 Months

Hi Alma, thanks for your comment - please do email the Riverford customer service team at help@riverford.co.uk for any queries regarding your order. Alternatively, you can contact them on social media on Twitter or Facebook messenger at @Riverford. Thank you.

0 Reply

Oxongooner

1 Year 5 Months

Thank you Guy and all at Riverford. You continue to be an inspiration to us all.

0 Reply

Ben

1 Year 5 Months

’As so many of you are cooking from a veg box for the first time‘

Seems to confirm what many regular customers fear: that they have been abandoned in the face of panic buying. 251 boxes ordered in the past few years. Not missed a week for months. But now I can’t order anything at all. Who is benefiting from people like me being cast aside?

I’m sad that Guy’s weekly note, which I always enjoy, has failed to hit the right note.

1 Reply

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Comments Editor

1 Year 5 Months

Hi Ben, thanks for your comment. If you are able to email wickedleeks@riverford.co.uk, we can arrange for someone to contact you about this. Guy would have been referring to the existing customers who have swapped from their usual order to a veg box for the first time as the shop has been closed to new customers for a couple of weeks now. Apologies in any case, and please do email so that the customer service team can get back to you.

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LeeJJ

1 Year 5 Months

Yes - I agree with Ben. I got lucky last week though and found a sudden window of opportunity to make an order. I do think loyal customers should have some recognition.

So glad I found some boxes available after checking very frequently. Still can't get eggs though. I have been told some people are ordering 30 at a time.

I would like to acknowledge our driver's work in getting boxes to us at this difficult time. A MASSIVE THANK YOU TO IAN! We no longer take people like him for granted, doing such important work. We've managed to stay away from shops for two weeks because of Ian's deliveries and the Riverford people's work (we had to self-isolate as a family member outside of our household contracted the virus two weeks ago).

Thanks again to everyone at Riverford! (Please may I have some eggs, though ; )

1 Reply

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Comments Editor

1 Year 5 Months

Hi Lee, please do contact the customer service team at help@riverford.co.uk who will be able to help explain the situation with ordering at the moment. Unfortunately we can't help you through Wicked Leeks. Thanks.

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Customer

1 Year 5 Months

I agree with Ben and Lee!

Although I am not able to order as frequently as Ben I am a regular customer and have been waiting for Riverford to contact me re placing an order but I’ve heard nothing.

I realise that it is a busy and unprecedented time but I am surprised that Riverford are not recognising the loyalty of their existing customers.

I sincerely hope that all these ‘new’ customers will remain customers when this crisis is over but I suspect not so why are Riverford giving priority to them now?

I’m not normally one to have a ‘moan’ and have always been delighted with the service I’ve received but feel very disappointed at the moment ☹️.

1 Reply

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Comments Editor

1 Year 5 Months

Hello there, if you could get in touch through email at wickedleeks@riverford.co.uk we will be able to forward your details on to customer services - unfortunately we're not able to help through Wicked Leeks. Thank you!

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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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