Riverford veg boxes – Ethical Product of the Decade

We are all beyond thrilled to have been given this title by the Observer Ethical Awards 2015. We were up against some truly deserving competition such as the Fairtrade banana, whom we support and respect and who would have been a very worthy winner, along with Divine chocolate which I have long admired for their unerring commitment to their producers. But we can’t help being delighted that it was us.

For almost 30 years, I have aimed to use the business to make the world a slightly better place, one veg box at a time. Put simply we want to give people good, fresh, flavoursome, ethically-produced food that they can trust, produced and delivered in a way that gives a fair deal to farmers, animals, customers, staff and the environment. This means not going for easy answers (which are nearly always the ones that would be better from a marketing point of view), but looking for an informed and balanced solution to the many dilemmas we face in farming, business and food production. This often challenges our customers’ intuitive judgements and our success as a business would have been impossible without the trust and commitment of our many longstanding customers; they enable us to farm and trade with others for the long-term, as we would really like.

Vegetables are at the heart of what we do, and we are happy to be called veg nerds. As well as our four organic UK farms and one in France, we work with South Devon Organic Producers, the cooperative of local family farms I set up, sharing machinery and expertise to show that it is absolutely possible to grow good food at scale, without using environmentally harmful chemical pesticides and herbicides. Everything that we grow is selected for flavour; our carrots taste so good because they are selected and grown to be so, rather than to grow fast or to withstand bulk handling or to be cosmetically perfect. Our meat also comes from small-scale organic farmers with some of the highest animal welfare standards around. We aim for the shortest possible journey from the farm to the abattoir, with all meat handled in a totally transparent operation, with minimum processing and zero abusive practice at any stages. We encourage a ‘meat and ten veg’ attitude to meat consumption: let’s eat less of it, less often, and of better quality.

I really believe that you don’t have to be a bastard to be successful in business. Good business practice is almost as important to me as good farming. People management is not a skill that comes naturally to many farmers (and possibly not many entrepreneurs), me included, but I am very proud of having created a business that staff believe in and increasingly say is a very special place to work.

In summary, I want Riverford to be all about good food, good farming and good business; and about family farms, not factory farms. We hope to encourage people to ask questions about where their food comes from (without being preachy), and to treat food not as something anonymous, but as something to respect, enjoy with friends and family but in the clear and transparent knowledge of the journey it has made to the plate.

As far as we are concerned, the best things in life are shared, and food, good food, is the greatest example of this, and we want it to be available to everyone. It is very rewarding to have had this accolade from the Observer.

Guy Watson

Riverford Sourcing Policy

  • All produce/goods must be organically certified, where possible with the Soil Association, which we see as the gold standard in the UK.
  • We source as locally as is sensible, observing the principle of ‘right plant, right place’, so not growing veg where it does not belong. Each of the four regional Riverford farms grows locally as much of what they sell themselves as possible, using veg grown on our farm in France to fill the ‘hungry gap’.
  • We do not use produce from heated glasshouses, as the carbon footprint of such veg is greater by a factor of between 3 and 10, compared with growing, for example tomatoes and peppers, in the closest place (Spain) with the right climate and transporting them. More details on this at www.riverfordenvironment.co.uk.
  • Each farm has a cooperative or grower group of local farmers who we work with in the long term. Prices and volumes are set in advance, and we stick with our growers, providing a level of income security that is far from how many of the supermarkets operate. We work in exactly the same way with our small group of Spanish growers.
  • We never, ever air-freight anything, due to the enormous carbon footprint of this method of transportation. Anything we import comes by container ship or truck only.
  • We buy direct from the growers. This makes the produce more affordable by cutting out layers of middle men, helps family farms remain profitable, and helps make our farm to plate chain as transparent for our customers as possible.

54 responses to “Riverford veg boxes – Ethical Product of the Decade

    All your hard work, and ethics have paid off..so good that this fact has been recognised…Congratulations : )

  2. Janet Campbell

    Well done you! And of course all at Riverford! More British businesses need to take your approach on board!

  3. Congratulations! Love my vegbox. Love your ethics.

  4. Well done to all& well deserved from a long standing customer . Here’s to the next decade . Live long & prosper !

  5. Well done Guy and the RiverfordTeam. Well deserved award. Long may you continue to supply the best veg and meat I have ever eaten.

  6. Maureen Cowman

    Very much deserved. well done Guy and all the team. Love my veg box and other products. Wishing you much success in the future.

  7. So pleased your hard work has been rewarded. Your independent thinking and commitment to a better planet is an inspiration to us all. And we enjoy fantastic food as a result, can’t thank you enough.

  8. I’m so proud to be a Riverford customer; you are truly my favourite business ever! Congratulations to everyone at Riverford

  9. I’ve been a customer since 2007 and I’m so proud to be one. Well done greatly deserved congratulations.

  10. Many congratulations- you deserve this. I occasionally have to top up fruit and veg from a supermarket and it always reminds me why I have a weekly box from Riverford…

  11. Congratulations to all at Riverford. A deserved award for keeping faith to organic farming methods and valuing everyone involved in getting those boxes to us every week.

  12. Pingback: Congratulations Riverford Organic Farms Veg Box | PeaceCrafting

  13. Andy Thompson

    Well done! If only you could supply everything else I need to buy – Life would be so much easier

  14. Well done to the whole Riverford team. I think I embarrassed you once, Guy, by saying that you are a hero of mine. I am not apologising for this. I never had the opportunity to clarify my statement. Your vision and continued ethical practises make you my hero. It means that I can buy from Riverford, which makes all the decisions instead of my standing at the supermarket counter looking at where each product has been grown or produced and trying to decide which is the best to buy. Thank you for that and all your continuing work. Congratulations to the whole team.

  15. Peter and Susan Lane

    Congratulations to all at Riverford – this is so well deserved by a company whose ethics are spot on. We’ve been with Riverford for 10 years and the quality and range of products is second to none. Riverford is living proof that an ethical approach to business is possible in a world that is becoming increasingly cynical, selfish and greedy. We are really proud of you all.

  16. Katie & Dave Pollard

    Fantastic! Many Congratulations. You all deserve it. We have had Riverford for over 10 years now and love it.

  17. What a wonderful way to have your work recognised and so very well deserved. Clearly there are a lot of us who really appreciate the Riverford philosophy and I hope this award brings you many more converts! Congratulations to you all.

  18. Lesley Blakemore

    CONGRATULATIONS. This award is so well deserved. All of your produce is always amazing and people I speak to (delivering my boxes or on the phone) are always so friendly. Thank you Riverford, I don’t know what I’d do without you!

  19. President Obama, Sir David Attenborough and RIVERFORD!! – will save the planet! – believe it!!! Well done GUY!

  20. Wow! So well deserved. Congratulations to all. I love my weekly veg box. It has transformed my way of cooking and shopping. I look forward to the often informative letter inside which I wholeheartedly support. I hope this makes the business and philosophy spread. Well done for persevering through all the hardships. I think you have gathered a lot of supporters.

  21. Congratulations indeed! so deserved! Your work and your ethos is simply amazing. A big big thank you to you all.

  22. Jill Phillips

    Congratulations and well deserved

  23. Anne Finlay-Baird

    Thrilled your hard work and ethical way of providing me with wonderful food each week has been justly rewarded

  24. Brilliant! Well done to all of you – you deserve it for setting the bar so high and following through – showing that it IS possible to feed people well without all the chemical inputs and without using unethical practices. Let’s hope more follow your example.

  25. Can’t make the ‘sign me up to the Blog’ work – please sign me up to the Blog.

  26. Judy O'Carroll

    As a Riverford customer of 13 years, I am so amazed at the innovative approach to our veg boxes, and the sheer sweat and enthusiasm that goes into them. This award is so well-deserved.

  27. Congratulations..!!
    My family have enjoyed the veg box for over nine years even our 2 & 5 year old children love it too!!!

    Well done

  28. FANTASTICO! Well deserved!

  29. Well done, I’m delighted for you, all that effort was well worth it. We all thrive on the healthy veg. and enjoy the recipes. I love the weekly update too, reminds me of the happy days when we had an organic allotment, and the occasional red earth on the veggies reminds me of being at Uni in Exeter and admiring the red Devon fields. Long may you flourish.

  30. I am absolutely delighted to hear you’ve won the Observer award. We always look forward to our weekly deliveries and we pass the word round to our friends that Riverford should be supported as widely as possible: not just because of the quality of the food but even more for what it stands for.

  31. From farm → to box → to mouth → to health … a million thanks Guy for nurturing everyone and everything along the way.
    Congratulations on your richly-deserved award and the faith in your vision; also to the entire Riverford Team.
    We’ve loved Riverford’s boxes for over eleven years and it’s a love that keeps growing!

  32. Kay Colquhoun

    Congratulations – and so well deserved – everything about Riverford says ‘we are authentic and accountable’ – love the brand, the ideology, and the people behind it. Good job guys and Guy.

  33. Carol-Mary Fraser

    Congratulations Guy and All who contribute to your venture; the award is well-deserved.
    It is very important for me to have the assurance the fruit and veg I buy has been produced in a healthy and ethical manner. You may be a pricier than the supermarkets but I take comfort in the fact that the produce is coming from a business that puts quality before quantity. I love it that your produce is offered at the right time, by the right people and in the right way – not tasteless strawberries in December or runner beans flown in from Kenya all year round.
    Keep on ethically fruiting and vegging!

  34. Well done Guy and the Riverford team for never letting go of your vision and sticking to your ethos. Finally getting the recognition you deserve! Proud to be a customer and supporter.

  35. Kim and Adrian Smith

    Congratulations. Very well deserved. Best produce and customer service ever. We’re proud to have been Riverford customers for many many years. Keep it going.

  36. Isabel Hitchman

    Many congratulations. May your excellent work continue to prosper.

  37. Melanie Evans

    I was so pleased to see that you have been recognised for all your hard work, dedication and commitment. I have found your newsletters to be such an inspiration in terms of standing by your ethical principles despite the incredible hard work that often means. You are a breath of fresh air in a troubled world! Of course the produce is fantastic and the staff are always a pleasure to speak to.

  38. Well done! Well deserved and you and your company are an inspiration. We look forward to reading your newsletters every week – you really do practice what you preach and we always feel better informed for it ! I agree with another poster – if only I could source all my groceries from you …keep up the good work ! Hope you are all going celebrate this fantastic achievement .

  39. Candida de Melo

    Congratulations Riverford! Well done! Very well deserved! and Im so proud to be part of this crowd! …always recommending you to friends and patients… Superb service! Thanks to Simon! Making food better…. One box at a time!

  40. Congratulations. I love Riverford and I love what you stand for. Guy – you and the team have truly created an outstanding business. Your integrity and passion, your vision, is amazing.

  41. Huge congratulations! We have been a Riverford customer for many years and we are so pleased and proud to say so! Thank you for sticking with your vision and for your superb service…to our local farmer Neal and our wonderful delivery guy, Jamie, who never let us down…thank you!!!!

  42. Jenny Fradgley

    Congratulations to all the team at Riverford on this major achievement. The Observer has made a wonderful choice in awarding your company with Ethical Product of The Decade. This is the recognition that you truly deserve for your continuous dedication and effort in supplying quality fruit and vegetables to keep all your customers satisfied.
    Thank you for your excellent service you should be very proud of yourselves. Well done 🙂

  43. Catharina Jansma

    Everything’s is a fit, food, vision, attitude. When our family moved here we only started feeling ‘to be grounded’ when we started with the Riverford boxes last year. Every box is delight to receive, and Guy, your weekly words are food for the soul. Excellent and congratulations!

  44. Great news – I’ve only just seen this on the website! We have been enjoying the veg and meatboxes for well over 10 years and they are always great. Love the food and the ethics – and theField Kitchen restaurant is also brilliant! Keep up the good work. Well done to all at Riverford!

  45. Really well done to everyone at Riverford. Thank you for the great organic vegboxes and for being such an ethical company.

  46. daphne wadsley

    Well done and so well deserved. Your vegetables are marvellous and I look forward to my boxes being delivered. Please carry on the good work and especially the animal welfare for ever !

  47. Well done Guy and all at Riverford and all the organic farmers. Well deserved accolade and good role model for other food producers to emulate.

  48. margaret pauffley

    Well done. I am so pleased your hard work and ethics have been recognised and hope this will get you more customers and encourage more farmers and food businesses to follow your example. I feel so lucky to be able to eat fresh organic veggies, eggs and dairy from a company I can trust, and for the convenience of having it delivered to my door. Thank you

  49. Lesley Johnson

    This is fantastic news! We are so happy for all of you! Your produce is just wonderful, tasty and most of all I know it doesn’t contain the poisonous substances (not mentioning the positive environmental advantages) non organic food contains. And delivered to our door! What more could we ask for! We love receiving our boxes (due tomorrow!!) and we are ecstatic that you have received this award. You certainly deserve this recognition and hope as others have said, that organic food production becomes more of the norm and that they follow your example. WELL DONE!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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  51. Well done to you all – but of course us customers have all known that you are the best for a long while and it has just taken a little longer for others to find out! I still get a little excited at the thought of finding a box of veg on my doorstep – veg nerd? perhaps but, what wonderful veg to be nerdy about – keep doing whatever it is you do and best wishes to everyone.

  52. David Raven-Hill

    This is wonderful news, well deserved and testimony to the unerringly ethical and consistently grounded philosophy that underpins Riverford. The quality of the produce is second to none: as a family we tried a number of different schemes before discovering Riverford, three years ago, and have not looked back. Not only is the quality of the produce excellent, it’s significantly important that the production and transportation is in keeping with a principled approach. Bravo!

  53. People are still sceptical when we talk of our organic delivery. How do you know it’s organic? What’s the difference in taste? How much? etc etc. Unfortunately our lives are moving too fast and were too busy to research all of the answers. We rely on people like Riverford to slow things down and go back to basics. No where is that more important than the food we eat and how we treat the planet. I’m very happy to see you receive this accolade as it makes me feel that at least in this I’m backing the right organisation. Keep up the good work.

  54. I live in Canada, and even though I am not able to be a customer, I must say congratulations.
    Thank you for your ethical standards and care for the environment! 🙂

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