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Guy's news: when I grow up

Taken as a whole, 2015 has treated us well. A bright and dry, if cool, spring allowed us to plant in good conditions, and though crops were slow to get away in the cold, all was well as we entered summer. The persistent dampness of late summer brought a spate of fungal disease, but the wonderfully bright and dry September and October were a gift to all farmers, allowing perfect ripening and harvesting conditions and a late rally in many crops. Since then it has been relentlessly grim in the fields with barely a few hours of brightness and no chance of harvesting the last carrots, but that is pretty much what we expect.

Good farmers make the most of their chances; bad farmers make the most of their excuses. To be in the former group you must grow the right crops on the right soils in the right climate and be ready to make the most of the opportunities the weather presents. After years of pig-headedly fighting with our heavier Devon soils and damp climate, we now focus on the crops that do well here; brassicas like cabbage, broccoli, swede and kale, plus salads, potatoes and leeks. The onions, Brussels sprouts and parsnips have moved to lighter soils in the drier east; it flies in the face of ‘local food’ but reduces risk and the wasted work and energy expended on failed or half crops. I strongly suspect it makes better environmental sense as well.

I reckon the attendance and mood of work Christmas parties is as good an indication of an organisation’s health as the accounts. We’ve had our ups and downs; the low was in the late ‘90s, when I spent a week cooking, rented a river boat and band, only for 10% of staff to show up. I tried in vain to console myself by drinking the booze; the hangover was bad, but not as bad as the year that followed. By contrast, I reckon last weekend’s raucous affair, themed ‘what I want to be when I grow up’, was our best yet; we seem to have come of age without getting boring so I feel confident we will rise to the inevitable challenges ahead. When I was growing up I could hardly have wished for more.

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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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    Guy Singh-Watson on why businesses can and should do better at protecting both people and planet.

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