FAQs - Riverford

 

What is distinctive about Riverford? - We're a little different and here's why.

How did Riverford start?

   

Riverford was one of the pioneering organic vegetable box schemes, founded nearly 25 years ago by Guy Watson, who still owns and runs it. Riverford, the Watson family farm in Devon, is at the heart of Guy’s vegbox scheme, and various other Watson family enterprises: a dairy herd and award-winning dairy which produces our milk, cream, and yoghurt; a farm shop, kitchen and bakery; the meat box business and the Field Kitchen restaurant. The farm has a 25 year history of producing high quality fresh seasonal food and building the connection between consumer and grower (Riverford was the first farm in the country to open to the public back in the 1970s).

 

How does Riverford compare with other box schemes?

   

We are one of the larger box schemes, which enables us to offer varied box contents, flexibility, good value and service. We grow the vegetables ourselves, giving our customers a real connection with the farm, which you are welcome to come and visit. All deliveries are by our local vegmen/ladies, not couriers. As well as our original farm in Devon, we have regional farms in Cambridgeshire, Yorkshire and Hampshire, so that vegetables can be grown and distributed more locally. There are a few outstanding local box schemes that grow a good range and distribute locally and should be supported. For a bigger box scheme, we believe ours is a really good model.

 

How does Riverford compare with supermarkets?

Our produce is fresher than almost all supermarket veg; it comes straight from us to you, not via packers and distribution centres

  • We can choose the varieties we grow for flavour not cosmetic perfection or handling properties
  • We can tell you exactly where it comes from and you can come and see it growing
  • We give a consistently fair deal to growers and work with them over the long term
  • We have looked after the environment since day one – by the way we grow, by minimising waste, minimising and recycling packaging, and paying close attention to every aspect of our carbon footprint 
  • Delivery is free

How local is Riverford?

   

As Riverford has got bigger and more popular, it is also getting smaller and more local. Rather than grow any bigger from our Devon base, we have joined up with farmers in other parts of the country so that the vegetables can be grown close to where they are eaten. We have farms in Cambridgeshire serving the east of England, Yorkshire for the North and one in Hampshire for the South-Central region. If you are lucky enough to have a local farm shop that actually grows its own veg (a rarity) or a local box scheme that is both organic and grows locally, then you may get your vegetables more locally. Otherwise they are very unlikely to have travelled less distance or be fresher than ours.

 
   

What are organic veg boxes?

   

Organic veg boxes are at the heart of what we do. Each week we put together the best of what’s in season and pack it into boxes for you, so you get a varied, fresh, seasonal diet delivered to your door. Each week you can choose from a range of boxes to suit your household. It can take a few weeks to get used to life with a box, but customers generally find they cook more, eat more healthily and feel more of a connection with where their food comes from.

 

Is everything you sell organic?

   

Everything we grow, make and sell is organic. The only exception is wild fish, which we offer in our recipe boxes – you can find out more here.

 

What does organic mean?

   

Organic is a term defined by law. All our vegetables are grown under Soil Association certification, meaning that they are grown to exacting standards and stringently inspected. The letter of organic law means avoiding pesticides and chemicals, but we see organic as going beyond this and being about working with nature rather than against it, ensuring the way we grow and operate is sustainable in every way.

 

How wide is your range? What do you sell beyond veg boxes?

   

We are great believers in sticking to our onions and doing what we do well – growing great-tasting fruit and veg. However if we are trying to save trips to the supermarket and get the most out of our delivery vans, it makes sense to deliver more per trip. We offer a whole range of fruit and veg to top up your box and you can also get meat (often reared on the same farm where the veg is grown), milk, cream and yoghurt from the Riverford dairy, organic wine, beer, spirits, cheese and quite a lot more. All organic, much of it from the Riverford Farm Shop and mostly from local suppliers.

 

What about your eggs?

   

All our eggs are Soil Association accredited. We took the decision some years ago that the welfare standards of some other organic certification were not acceptable (eg. flock sizes were too large and the practice of de-beaking was still permitted). We are also trying to exceed some of the Soil Association standards by, for example, using producers that use much smaller flock sizes. Our producers’ hens are fed on an organic diet approved by both the Soil Association and the Vegetarian Society. Our producers do not use any fishmeal, only natural ingredients. It is important to give the birds a balanced diet, so the feed is varied depending on what natural ingredients are available or in season. They do not use any chemicals or artificial yolk colourants - everything is natural. From time to time a producer may feed their hens organic vitamins, the content of which is derived from organic fruit only. The Soil Association certifies this practice.

 

What does organic mean?

   

Organic is a term defined by law. All our vegetables are grown under Soil Association certification, meaning that they are grown to exacting standards and stringently inspected. The letter of organic law means avoiding pesticides and chemicals, but we see organic as going beyond this and being about working with nature rather than against it, ensuring the way we grow and operate is sustainable in every way.

 

Are the products on your extras list suitable for everyone?

   

We appreciate that many of our customers have different dietary requirements, so we try to provide as much information as possible about our products. We aim to source wines that are suitable for both vegetarians and vegans. Any products that may include nuts, dairy or gluten are clearly labelled. If you need a bit more information about any of our products call Customer Services on 01803 227227 or email help@riverford.co.uk

 

Where does your produce come from? Is it all homegrown?

   

Over the year around 90% of the vegetables are homegrown (80% if you include fruit – but obviously we can’t grow bananas and citrus fruit ourselves). The proportion of homegrown produce rises to near 100% in late summer and early autumn and dips to nearer 60% in late spring. Most is grown on our farms and by local grower groups. We import as little as possible (never by air freight) to keep the boxes interesting all year round and to cover the ‘hungry gap’ around May when our own fields offer little variety. You will see the country codes on our box contents page, these show where each item in the boxes is from. To find out what the codes stand for, click here.

 

What does ‘in conversion’ mean?

   

To become certified organic by the Soil Association, farmers have to take their land through a two year conversion process. During this period they cannot sell produce as organic, but can sell it as ‘in conversion’ which helps them through the process. We occasionally offer in conversion produce (apples are the most common example) – usually when the choice is between in conversion produce from a home grower or going abroad. It also means that we can help secure a market for smaller growers who have turned to organic farming while they wait for their produce to become certified. We have found that most customers strongly support this, but know that some feel strongly about everything being fully organic, so we only offer in conversion produce as an extra (clearly labelled), not in the boxes.

 

Do you air freight?

   

We do not air freight any produce and have never done so. Most of our imports come from growers in France and Spain. The carbon impact of imports – especially by sea – can be lower than growing in this country. If you would like to find out more visit our environment website.