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Guy's news: talking pumpkins & putting people in boxes

A break in the weather this week should let us harvest the last of the carrots and potatoes, and make a start on the parsnips and swedes. In such a warm autumn it seems too early to acknowledge winter by sending you hardy veg, but I remind myself that it is November, and the shortest day is only six weeks away.

Many of you will have pink fir apple potatoes in your boxes this week and I apologise to those who miss out; their late maturity, combined with a susceptibility to blight means they are very hard to grow organically (some say impossible). After too many failures in mild, blight-ridden Devon, we grew them in cooler, drier Yorkshire with our partner Peter Richardson this year. He had a pretty good crop and we will definitely bully him into sowing more in 2015. Shaped more like ginger than a potato, pink fir apples are hard to beat for flavour; they are known mainly as a salad potato though I find them a little dry and prefer them roast. Whatever you do, don’t bother peeling them.

One night, stumbling home under a full moon and other influences in my first year as a grower, I had an out-of-body experience in my pumpkin patch; they glowed like lazy Belisha beacons and spoke to me. I have sown pumpkins ever since but sadly, in my sobriety, have never found them remotely communicative. I soon got fed up with packaging and transport often costing more than I was paid for the crop, so I decided I would rather give them away. Our first Pumpkin Day, designed to raise money for Oxfam, was almost 20 years ago. Last weekend we opened up our farms for the annual event and had an astonishing, terrifying, 6500 visitors; far more than expected. We raised lots of money for the charity Send a Cow but my greatest pride was in seeing the genuinely happy visitors and how amiably a leek puller could transform into a smiling director of parking, how a website manager could carve pumpkins with children or how willingly my slouching skater teenage son would clear tables. We must try harder not to consign people to boxes; most people have so much more potential than their jobs allow them to express. We are not an events company but I reckon we hold pretty good ones; it’s good to break out of our own specialist box now and then.

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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 inspirational, passionate, 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.  

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