Guy’s news: Towards the world Scott wants to live in

It’s wild, grim and muddy out there, bringing growth to a standstill which will last six weeks. With so little vegetable stimulus, my thoughts fell to Brexit for this newsletter, but you are spared; it was so depressing I have junked it. Like many, I feel powerless, tired, and disappointed in our politicians on both sides. Better to concentrate on the positive changes that can be made without them.

In November, five months after becoming employee owned, we elected our first 21-strong co-owner council. Unconventionally, everyone at Riverford, apart from the directors, was a candidate; there is truth in the adage that those who seek power are the least suitable for holding it. We have still ended up with women and national minorities (roughly one-third of our staff are Eastern European) underrepresented, as is so often the case, but otherwise the group feels balanced; they already refer to themselves as a family.

Ultimately the council appoints the trustees, who appoint the board – but in reality, all three bodies in our tripartite governance structure are accountable to each other, and responsible for running a successful business in accordance with our founding principles. It sounds complicated, cumbersome and potentially threatening to conventional management positions; but concentrating power in the hands of one body is dangerous, and wastes the value of the conventionally powerless. We are all realising that harnessing a broad perspective will help us to make better decisions and implement them more effectively.

The pace is frustrating to my impetuous nature but, by feeling our way along slowly, we are growing up together. The thoughtfulness, understanding and magnanimity repeatedly shown by those unfamiliar with power reassures me that we are on the right path; that we can unlock the huge potential of our collective intelligence. In the words of Scott, a quietly spoken, newly elected council representative, “We are creating a microcosm of the world I have always wanted to live in.” At which point I became tearful and had to leave.

Struggling for a Christmas present? We have published a choice selection of Guy’s newsletters, charting his ruminations on food, farming and business over 25 years, illustrated by Guardian cartoonists Berger & Wyse. Yours for £9.99 at

5 responses to “Guy’s news: Towards the world Scott wants to live in

  1. Good morning Guy,
    Greetings from France and our permaculture / food forest haven in the Jura (dept 39) Val d’amour 🙂 50 km off Dijon to the East.

    I guess you have read this book?
    Reinventing organisations by Frederic Laloux
    “Reinventing Organizations is considered by many to be the most influential management book of this decade. It has inspired hundreds, probably thousands, of organizations throughout the world to take a radical leap and adopt a whole different set of management principles and practices.

    It’s also a word-of-mouth phenomenon, propelled by a deeply caring and generous community of readers. Self-published with no PR, it has already sold 400.000 copies and has been translated in numerous languages. ”

    All the best. Admire what you do!

  2. Knowing that Riverford is still “working” and I hope thriving keeps , I think, many of us a bit more cheerful in these troubling times when “the authorities” seem so disfunctional in the face of trying to make a settlement with the EU, and so grossly ineffective in responding to the urgency of climate change.

    And thank you Doris for the book reference.

  3. Thanks again Guy for making this possible. I too was deeply moved by Scott’s remark and your reaction to it. May this good work continue to prosper and inspire.

  4. Many decades ago when my mother read Silent Spring by Rachel Carlson and inspired my young sister and I to tread lightly on this beautiful planet I have rejoiced in the wholesome and creative ways folks like you Guy manage your business and so encouraging many to follow suit. Care for employees and respect for the land can only create harmony ultimately. As they say “Cream rises to the top”!

  5. I am buying the book of Guy’s newsletters and now pleading for one on Guy’s rants, both of which I read regularly with equal feelings of joy and emotion. Your work is vital, it must continue, thrive and spread…..How far that little candle throws it’s beams, So shines a good deed in a naughty world……Shakesspeare of course.

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