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News from the farm

Kernels of rebellion

Summer crops are finishing in Devon, so we have switched back to our farm in the French Vendée for the last few weeks of lettuce, sweetcorn and, later in the month, broccoli.

The extra sunshine 200 miles further south gives better yields, quality and flavour at this time of year, as our UK crops lose vigour and take on a pale, sun-starved, end-of-season look. Predictably, as we approach the Brexit cliff edge on the 31st, there is some anxiety about getting crops back over the Channel.

For now, as is often the case in September and October, we are buried in veg. The last summer crops overlap with the start of our winter harvests – and the recent rain and mild temperatures have boosted yields and brought crops forward. Normally if our growers go a bit over the agreed programme we are able to accommodate the surplus, but this year there is just too much, and we are having to be stricter than we would like.

There has been a late flush of sweetcorn, as crops held back by a cold June finally made it over the line (just before dropping temperatures and light levels would stop them ripening). Riverford customers got the best of the crop in their boxes; anything small, misformed or blemished was picked by a team of Extinction Rebellion volunteers and sent to London to feed the protest. As in the past, the volunteers turned up on time and worked hard getting the job done, despite mud, rain and a lack of experience.

Thousands of surplus Riverford sweetcorn cobs have been sent to Extinction Rebellion.

I love XR, primarily for their values and determination, but almost as much for their ability to harness, organise and get the best from people, with fluidity, humanity and trust, but none of the rigid structures and hierarchies most organisations resort to. I reckon most businesses, and even governments, could learn a lot from them.

Return your veg boxes!

Finally, a plea from me to Riverford veg box customers: please do return your veg boxes to us. They are designed to be reused 10 times, massively reducing their environmental impact – but at the moment we achieve nowhere near this, because so many people don’t give them back. If all our customers returned their veg boxes, we could save almost 22,000 trees’ worth of cardboard every year.

We are encouraging a ‘box amnesty’ throughout October; if you have any hoarded away in a corner somewhere, please fold them flat and leave them out before your next delivery for your veg team to collect.



7 Months 3 Weeks

I have a stack of boxes from my final order. There is no facility to return boxes unless you have another order. Could the people who deliver pick them up on their rounds?

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Comments Editor

7 Months 2 Weeks

Hi corajoan, please contact Riverford Customer services on 01803 227227 / and they will be happy to help with your query about box collection.

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5 Months 4 Weeks

I'm sure there are many well intentioned people in XR, but what about the people behind it. I can't help thinking they have another agenda.

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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 55,000 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 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.

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