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Guy's news: spice girl revelry & a dream for 2015

After a soggy start with some drowned early lettuce and potatoes, 2014 turned out to be one of the best growing years we’ve had. Plenty of sunshine and just enough summer rain falling at the right times was followed by an exceedingly ‘long back end’. I always love saying that; for the uninitiated, it’s farming speak for those long and mild autumns we often get in Devon when the grass keeps growing; this year the long back end spread across the whole country and as a consequence we go into the winter surrounded by an embarrassment of greens.

With such veg abundance it is a continued frustration that we aren’t equally good at selling the stuff; we remain well behind the game with our website and communications. Our aim is to use digital technology, texts and the rest to bring our fields into your kitchen in a way which is appropriate to your cooking style (ie. without bombarding you with unwanted information); your allotment without the work is the dream. We will use our experience of running a restaurant, a pub, and cooking for our staff and the local school to encourage you to eat seasonally in a way which is easy for you. Realising that dream is about getting the right people behind it and we now have a truly genius and utterly determined team. This time next year we might be as good at running a website and managing data as we are at growing kale and packing vegboxes.

Last week we had our staff party; a raucous and unashamedly high-spirited affair. Ten years ago I would have been cooking for a week, mixed the cocktails and ensured that however drunk we got, it was all on organic booze and done with impeccable, if rustic, good taste. In retrospect I think maybe I needed to get over myself; I don’t think I will ever like Jӓgerbombs, the music was atrocious and if there was any food I missed it, but none of that mattered. Did my mother turn in 06her grave? Actually I think she would have liked it too. Best fancy dress went to the combined IT and accounts departments’ Spice Girl effort; disturbingly good, even with (or thanks to?) two male members. Thanks for your support in 2014. Next year our website will be as good as our vegetables. Box prices will be unchanged in the New Year. Merry Christmas.

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    Guy Singh-Watson

    Self-confessed veg nerd, 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 50,000 customers a week. Guy is an opinionated and admired figure in the world of organic farming, who still spends more time in the fields than in the boardroom. Twice awarded BBC Radio 4 Farmer of the Year, Guy is passionate about sharing with others the organic farming and business knowledge he has accumulated over the last three decades. His video rants have provided a powerful platform to do this, with a video on pesticides going viral on Facebook to reach 5.6 million views and 91,000 shares. His weekly veg box newsletters connect customers 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. In June 2018, Guy handed over the reins of Riverford to its staff, choosing employee ownership as the model that will protect Riverford's ethical values forever and ensure the security of its employees.  

    Do consumers have a choice?

    Guy Singh-Watson on how the market is not giving people the choice they truly want – the choice to be part of the solution, not the problem.

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