Guy’s news: Planning & long-term relationships

Leafing through the glossy pages of seed catalogues can be a dangerous pastime during short, cold winter days. We know our carrots will be more wrinkled and there will be few onions with such flawless skin, but in a warm kitchen, disbelief can be suspended and dangerous dreams of vegetable perfection can take root. Thankfully, the days when a year’s cropping was based on my emotional state when ordering the seeds are long past; today planning is rational and meticulous. The ideal contents of every veg box from May ‘18 to April ‘19 were decided by September ‘17; by November we’d agreed which fellow farmers will grow what and agreed prices, leaving January to order seeds and plants and plan our own farm cropping. It can be two years before some crops end up in your boxes; last minute adjustments may be needed as crops fail or out-yield, or come early or late, but for the most part it works. Waste is minimal, and (correct me if I am wrong) the variety and balance in your boxes is infinitely better than in the dark ages of my whims.

My greatest pride in Riverford stems from breaking the industry norms of short-term, competitive relationships and almost ritualistic abuse of growers by supermarket and wholesaler buyers who have little knowledge (and even less interest) in flavour or the realities of farming. The waste, brutality and frustration I experienced on the wrong side of those negotiations made me determined to find a better way of working with our own growers. There is usually more to be gained by cooperation and long-term, mutually beneficial relationships than brutal competition for short-term contracts; it all depends on building and valuing mutual trust. We also have a preference for smaller family farms with a heartfelt commitment to organic farming, over large, commercially-motivated growers who keep a foot in both organic and conventional camps and move whichever way the wind blows. Maintaining relationships with growers, whether in Devon, Yorkshire, Spain or Togo, often over 10 or even 20 years, is not always the cheapest way of buying, but it does produce the best veg. Respect for humanity and the environment are included free.

Read about our recent trip to visit our Spanish growers here.

7 responses to “Guy’s news: Planning & long-term relationships

  1. Brilliant.
    Thank You.
    You are a significant part of my 95% clear conscience.

  2. Fantastic. I’m passionate about all you stand for and will continue to support Riverford.

  3. Absolutely! The produce is always first class and it makes me cook and think more about what to cook. No waste in this house after all the effort that goes into my box. Thank you

  4. Ditto the above. Your ethics have inspired my since I first heard of Riverford. We need more businesses with this type of commitment to fairness and equality. Thank you for your continuing commitment to good veg and customer relations. Your newsletters always restore my belief in the human race.

  5. I totally agree. These ethics are vital to making our world work rather than destroy itself. As a bonus, the pineapple we had recently was the most amazing we have ever tested! Sweet and melt in the mouth. Astonishing.

  6. Couldn’t agree more. I have only been with you for 6 months, but it had changed my cooking to seasonal and I now plan my weekly cooking according to what you sending and its so much better. I am trying different recipes and feel like it tests me more in the kitchen. And the fruit and veg is fantastic. Love everything that you stand for, wish I knew of you earlier!

  7. I wish there were more people with your principles and integrity at the helms of our businesses. Can we have you cloned?
    I have the best tasting fruit and veg and I can’t help feeling a little smug when I put out my few bits of plastic for recycling. Big Thank You

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