Riverford Wicked Leeks

Peter Richardson - Home Farm

Over ten years ago Peter Richardson took a commercial decision to switch his mixed conventional farm over to organic methods.

“I think at the time it was a bit of a leap in the dark. We did a bit of homework and the organic market seemed to be growing, there seemed to be a future in it, so we bit the bullet,” he says.

He now grows potatoes, parsnips, courgettes, broccoli, purple sprouting broccoli, cabbages, asparagus, beetroot, chard, broad beans, runner beans, French beans garlic and leeks across 500 acres. It’s a big operation and at times employs 30 people.

“Now we’re into it we are a principled organic grower. There’s a great array of wildlife on the farm now, and also a few more weeds about.

“But it’s a sustainable way of going on. It does work,” says Peter. And there is, he adds, an upside to all the weeding, too. “It’s very satisfying. You feel more of an intimate relationship as you weed the crops, rather than just going across with a sprayer.”

The key to success is being strict about crop rotation. “With conventional farming, you could plant potatoes in the same place every three years but with organic methods it’s once every seven years. You don’t want the pests and soil-borne diseases.”

The Richardsons enjoy seeing their product going out packed and ready for the customer – whereas in a previous life it was sent off to a packing house for distribution.

“There’s a closer connection with the customer, there’s no two ways about it.”

And of course, Riverford doesn’t mind if courgettes exceed 21cm. “They can’t for the supermarket because they won’t fit in the packet. But there are no compromises on the quality for Riverford – you’re just utilising more of your crop.”