One of Guy Watson’s neighbours is Andy Hayllor, who farms around 800 acres of the rolling south Devon hills and supplies Riverford with a wide range of veg for their boxes as well as free-range organic chickens for the table.
Andy went organic at the end of the 1990s and now farms 600 acres organically. The weather, he says, is his biggest problem.
“In a wet year it’s a nightmare, in a good year it’s a pleasure. In 2008 there was no sun and it was so wet it caused major blight on the crops. There wasn’t enough sun to grow the winter brassicas.”
Organic soil can be badly damaged if it’s worked on or driven over when very wet and Andy said he’d spent a lot of time this year rectifying the soil problems caused last year.
He now has a flock of 40,000 chickens, some of which are sold by Riverford in their meat boxes and farm shops. They are fed on organic feed and Andy expects to start growing some crops for the chickens before too long.
A firm believer in the principles behind organic farming, Andy believes his conversion was worth the extra investment in staff, stores, sheds and new machinery.
“When we were farming conventionally we were producing milk and getting paid 16p a litre for it – it just wasn’t worth all the effort, time and money we put into it. Then the veg came along and we grabbed the possibility of growing as much as possible.”
He has done just that and now produces an impressive line-up of potatoes, carrots, leeks, courgettes, asparagus, beetroot, cabbages, fennel, runner beans, French beans and peas! If your box comes from Riverford in Devon, it’s highly likely you’re eating some of Andy’s crops.