John Walter Symons

John Walter Symonds

“Organic, for us, happened after a meeting with Guy Watson,” says John. “We were looking for an interesting project, we’d always been environmentally-focused, and hardly ever used sprays, so it was a logical step. I was also keen on farming without lining the pockets of the agri-chemical companies. “Having said that, it was still very nerve-wracking and we had no way of knowing whether we could make it work.” But it did work, and ten years later the farm is going strong, producing organic vegetables and cereals, as well as sheep.

John supplies the Riverford boxes with potatoes, sweet corn, purple sprouting broccoli, cabbages, kale, cauliflower and French beans.

He also hopes his organic lamb will soon find its way into the Riverford meat boxes. One of the things John likes about selling his produce through the box scheme is the direct link with the consumer. “We used to sell lambs and not have a clue where they would end up, and I’m very glad that isn’t the situation any more,” he says.

John also says there has been a “significant” increase in wildlife on the farm since they went organic. “Organic farming is for me like getting back to the way I farmed when I first started in the early 1970s,” he says. “When things were still not too intensive. When there were proper rotations, and break crops, and people cared about the soil structure and didn’t just throw chemicals at it.

"It’s good to get back to that."