Guy’s news: Trust, partnership & choice

We are enjoying a bumper crop of excellent quality runner and French beans, sweetcorn and some of the best carrots I’ve tasted in 30 years; 2016 is turning out to be a good summer for most crops. About 90% of your box contents are meticulously planned a year or more ahead but yields and maturity dates vary, creating gluts and shortages. Inevitably we deviate from our ‘ideal’ contents to accommodate these variations up to a point (which we argue about a lot); it’s a compromise between keeping you happy in the kitchen and at the table on one hand, and avoiding waste and supporting committed growers on the other.

One of the things that I am most proud of about Riverford is that while we are not perfect, we are good to our word; if we agree to buy a crop from a grower and it meets our quality criteria (where the emphasis is on flavour, not appearance), we take 100% of the agreed tonnage and pay 100% of the agreed price. This is a remarkable achievement in our industry where a third of farmers’ crops are regularly left in the field, and growers are expected to sell their souls along with their crops to keep petulant buyers happy and shelves full.

How do we manage it? In part because as farmers ourselves, we understand the realities of growing; partly because we invest heavily in long term relationships with growers and don’t have a buyer’s tantrum at the first sign of trouble and in part because of meticulous planning. But a lot is down to how your trust allows us to tweak the veg box contents to keep both growers and cooks happy, avoid waste and so create the value that means our veg is usually 20% cheaper than supermarket organic veg. It’s a partnership, and mostly it works incredibly well.

Choice, flexibility and convenience (arguably not our strong points) come at a price which the consumer seldom sees; it is paid by the fulfilment centre worker and Hermes delivery driver earning less than the living wage, by the farmer whose crop is left unsold, by the environment as vans chase delivery slots, crop surpluses rot in fields and airplanes fly clothes to achieve quick turnarounds and keep up with fashions. All of that sacrifice to give us endless choice. Frustrating when much of the time, I for one, don’t really know what I want anyway.

Guy Watson

4 responses to “Guy’s news: Trust, partnership & choice

  1. This is amazing and a bit scary! Are you reading my mind? Just this morning I received my box and after unpacking it realised yikes! Where is the Chard?! No Chard. Immediately in a state of panic I looked for my recipt to clarify my order. Yep, right there med fruit and veg box original. On to the website: box contents this week : Chard. So where was the Chard? Spinach. More spinach. Perpetual Spinach! Call to customer service. Where is the Chard? Following a very informative conversation I settled down to unpack my spinach and calmed down enough to get my newly arrived wildlife settled down in his jar with a handful of spinach.
    I am now the proud owner of what I think is a Cabbage White Butterfly caterpillar I hope to nurture through the winter.
    I am constantly learning from being a veg box customer and the importance of taking the leap of faith to trust that what arrives in my box may be there for a good reason and like Guy I dont really know what I want in my veg box but there is one thing that I do- ethically produced healthy fruit and veg that I can eat knowing it is not full of pesticides and that it is truly organic and sometimes a small form of wildlife shows up just as a reminder. I have named the caterpillar Watson- though I can imagine Guy’s response as this little creature is the bane of brassica growers everywhere.

    • Kate, that is strange! Thanks for this comment, and your new acceptance that sometimes, things outside of our control go wrong. Take care of our farm souvenir for us – we love that you’ve called it Watson.

  2. Reading this has made me wonder, not for the first time, if I am not being a “good” customer because I don’t have a regular box order, but only order what I want when I want it

  3. Guy, I love your blog! Now we need to think about how to convey these truths to the greater populace…

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