Guy’s news: Smiling in the face of calamity

The reservoirs are all but empty. We have kept back just enough to water our five acres of tunnels; the outdoor crops will have to fend for themselves. Without rain, the shallow-rooting, quick-growing and water-demanding crops like lettuce, spinach and rocket will start suffering within a week and be unmarketable in two. Prospects for broccoli and potatoes aren’t much better.

Beyond the reach of irrigation pipes, we are planting out leeks, cabbages, kales and cauliflowers; the crops that will keep your boxes full over the winter. In most cases the land was ploughed and a seed bed made while still moist in May; this effectively seals the moisture in and conserves it until planting. We plant as deeply and as firmly as possible, and most of the plants are getting their roots out and down into the moisture before the sun sucks the life out of them. Though we will probably invest in more winter fill reservoirs, the cheapest way to provide water is to prepare a ‘stale’ seed bed (with a loose, fine top layer that prevents capillary action from drawing water to the surface) early in the year; this also helps with weed control. However, leaving bare seed beds for extended periods while we wait to plant brings the risk of catastrophic soil loss from erosion in heavy rain. Damned if you plough early, damned if you plough late.

In contrast, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, sweetcorn and basil are lapping up the heat; in fact, we face a basil glut, so this is the time make pesto (£4.25 for 200g). Our cardoons, long since too tough to eat, are now coming into flower; the bees love them, but I reckon they can spare a few. You can order one for £1/stem, with 90p going to Send a Cow. They look and smell fantastic.

Despite the impending disaster, everyone seems remarkably calm, relaxed and even happy. Like our World Cup team, there is a feeling that we have done our best and what will be, will be. It could be the sunshine or the move to employee ownership; it could be that we have our best team ever and increasingly are leaving them to make their own decisions. Whatever the reason, we are making the most of our chances, which is all we can do in a year like this. In an act of defiant optimism, we are still sowing and planting salads; there seems to be some hope of a change in the weather towards the end of the month.

Guy Singh-Watson

21 responses to “Guy’s news: Smiling in the face of calamity

  1. Guy, we are thinking of you, and are grateful for Riverfoods. Our regards to you and all the workers, better times soon. X

  2. Good to keep us updated on what is growing in excess and what is suffering from the weather. That way I can choose receipes accordingly and not need to go elsewhere. Whatever the situation, we will keep our custom with you and the team.

    • Thank you Nicky. Salads all round then in your house then…. tomatoes, cucumbers, chillis and basil are not phased at all!

  3. Sorry to hear of your water woes. Here in Britain we have had an agreeable climate for so long we have become complacent. It is easy to forget the lessons of ’76, and think it was a one off.
    It is doubly difficult now you have moved to Co op status; a fledgling always has a difficult time; but this is exceptional weather. Even parts of Australia are suffering heat in the middle of their winter!
    Have you thought of investing in Aquaponics? It seems like a good and closed system, and recycling in this way may help with certain veg. I realise it won’t work for everything, though.
    Extra reservoirs seem to be the way, and reducing eveporation by using covers, perhaps?

  4. Good luck guys. Your updates just go to show what a precarious profession farming is. Especially organic farming. Keep on going!

  5. Nice blog. I almost feel like I’m farming again. I miss it so much and love your updates!

  6. To make the most of what’s in abundance, what could be nicer than a tomato or a Greek salad?
    Let’s hope for rain before too much longer….. the potential longer term impact could be very serious. Chin up guys! We won’t be going anywhere else!

  7. It’s so good to read your news and to be in touch with all that goes into getting our Riverford delivery every week. Thank you!

  8. Like someone said before we have got to support you through the hard times as we have such lovely produce provided by you in the good ones .When a company looks after its customers ,then I am sure the customers will remain at your side,and understand when certain veg or fruit are in short supply.

  9. Guy it’s hardly enough but over here in Paignton I can smell the rain

  10. It’s 6.15am , in Paignton, the rain is light but steady, really hope you’re getting some of this Guy, might give those lettuce a boost.

  11. Thanks for the blog. We had a dribble of rain yesterday evening here in West Wiltshire. Good luck ….will be sticking with Riverford.

  12. I’m old enough to remember 1976 but in those days I was ignorant of the affect the human race was having on our planet. Now I feel less and less secure in this wonderful home of ours. It is a source of great concern but Riverford and its ilk must deal with the day to day reality of a rapidly changing climate. I respect your honesty, integrity
    and continuing endeavour to produce organic produce to the very best of your ability against ever changing odds. You all have my full admiration and support.

  13. Really wishing you all well. You are doing a great job and lets hope for some water very soon, but please not a deluge to wash everything away.
    Thankyou for sharing honestly and openly.

  14. About those flowering cardoons..If the bees love them can you save some seed to be requested, be it paid or free, in the boxes for those of us trying to grow bee friendly plants, please?
    We have been planning a rainwater harvesting storage tank for our home and meet the plumber next week-if we get more droughts as expected this will help save plants and fruit crops. These tanks can be put in with a lid that will allow you to park your car above so if you have a driveway or garden, get one!
    Totally endorse everyone else’s comments of support.

  15. I reiterate what other people have said. You have my deep respect for your courage and honesty in the face of adversity. It must be heartbreaking to see so much hard work and planning being potentially ruined with exceptional weather patterns out of your control. I shall enjoy all the more whatever you provide us with in our boxes. Good luck to you all and let’s hope for rain soon.

  16. Heartening to read all the positive comments and we echo them. Here , in East Anglia, it is blisteringly hot and the cereal fields have already been harvested.
    Thank you for keeping us supplied and we wish you all well.

  17. Lorraine Morley

    Hello Guy, perhaps you have already considered this but what about crowd-funding some tankers of water in the short-term?

  18. My family very much respects your company and everything it stands for. We will remain loyal customers through good and bad. Bring on the tomatoes!!!

  19. Thanks for letting us know. I’ll order soon and will get what you have a glut of. Best wishes, Mel x

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