Category Archives: Uncategorised

Feed the Birds with a Free Riverford Sunflower


If you’ve been part of Riverford for a while, you might have had one of our organic sunflower birdfeeders before. They’re back, and we’d like you to enjoy one as a little gift from us. There isn’t enough for everyone, so it’s first come, first served. Don’t miss out – add yours now!

Guy first grew glowing yellow fields of sunflowers on his French farm in the Vendée in 2015, hoping to make his own organic sunflower oil. While watching the local wildlife thrive off the crop, he had an idea. Instead of making oil, he would dry the flowerheads and offer them to British birds.

The sunflowers went down a treat – and not just with birds. People sent us snaps of everything from wild birds to chickens, pet hamsters, and the odd cheeky squirrel munching their way through this organic snack. Keepers at the Monkey Sanctuary in Looe even said they made a great enrichment activity for the monkeys! It was so wonderful to see creatures great and small feasting on a natural organic treat, Guy has grown them again every year since.

Thinking of joining in with the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch from Saturday 27th – Monday 29th January? A Riverford sunflower is just the thing to lure out a few more feathered friends.

We would love to see photos of any birds and beasts enjoying the flower. Please share at facebook.com/riverford and twitter.com/riverford using #riverfordsunflower.

For inspiration, have a look at some of our favourite pictures from last year below…

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Juicing, blending and blitzing – what’s the difference?

Fresh juices and smoothies are often spoken of in the same breath. Superficially they are very similar; both colourful cocktails, good veg box user-uppers, and tasty shortcuts towards your 5-a-day. But from a culinary perspective, they’re wholly different beasts.

Even within the world of smoothies, there are vital distinctions: the drinks that can be created in standard blenders are entirely different to the blitzes produced by highly powered drink machines.

If you’re looking to eat more veg in 2018, fresh organic drinks are a good place to start. Here’s our handy guide to the virtues of each method, to help you get the most from every glass.

Juicing

When you think of juice, you might think of fruit first and foremost. You can stick to all-fruit blends if you have a very sweet tooth, but many vegetables also produce tasty juices – and their complex flavours will allow you to create far more satisfying mixes.

From beetroot to broccoli, most veg can be juiced; all it takes is the right complementary flavours to make them sing. Earthy roots or bitter greens will reveal their charms when combined with sweet fruit, a squeeze of sharp citrus, and perhaps some aromatic fresh herbs or spices.

Juicers extract flavoursome, vitamin and mineral-rich liquid, and leave the pulp of your fruit and veg behind. Losing the fibrous stuff means that you don’t need extra liquid or other additions– fresh produce is the only ingredient. There’s also not too much prep; you only need to remove strongly flavoured peels like citrus, and any bits that are tough enough to challenge your juicer (such as pineapple or melon skins and large fruit stones).

However, losing the bulk also means that fresh juice won’t fill you up – unlike blends and blitzes. If you just want a zingy drink to enjoy alongside food for an extra shot of goodness, fresh juice is the thing.

Blends

Standard kitchen blenders can handle soft fruits and tender raw veg such as spinach, but nothing with a high density of dry matter such as uncooked roots or apples. If you put a raw beetroot into a standard blender, you aren’t going to end up with a thick, smooth drink – you’ll just have shards of beetroot floating in watery stuff. You need to either stick to soft fruit and veg, or be prepared to cook certain items before blending them.

Because you’re going to be consuming the whole fruit or veg, there’s different prep involved: peel and chop any bits you don’t want to drink! To keep it at the right consistency with all that fibrous bulk, you’ll also need to add a liquid medium. Coconut water, fruit juice, dairy or nut milks – this can be whatever you fancy.

Blends may require different thinking to juices, but the effort pays off with some nutritional perks. Consuming the whole fruit or veg rather than just extracting the juice means that you’re getting all of its goodness, and keeping all the fibre makes the drinks quite filling.

Blends also produce a higher yield; you could potentially get several glasses from the same amount of fruit and veg it takes to produce one glass of juice.

The final virtue of a blend is that they’re made in standard blenders which can serve many functions in your kitchen. If you want to create a rich, nourishing drink without buying any extra bits of kit, blends are a good way to go.

Blitz

The highest horsepower option. The mighty blitzing machines that are made specifically to produce drinks can handle just about whatever you chuck at them, including uncooked roots, tough stems, and extras such as nuts, seeds and oats. All you need to do is provide enough liquid to blitz them into.

That flexibility to use up a wide variety of raw fruit and veg is the one vital difference between blitzes and blends. Otherwise, their virtues are very similar: to make a blitz, you’ll need to consider liquids and other additions – but, you’ll enjoy a higher yield, the goodness of the whole fruit, and something more like a meal.

Why organic?
Whether you’re blending, blitzing, or juicing, it’s always best to use organic produce. With organic, you don’t need to worry about pesticides or wax on the skin, but can process the whole fruit or veg – getting all the goodness and flavour without adding any chemical nasties to your drink.

Want to create your own fresh organic drinks? Our organic juicing box is packed with sweet, succulent fruit and veg. Or, for more inspiration, try our organic juicing bags, each containing a tasty recipe and everything you need to make it.

January sale: 0% off!

Riverford’s quiet revolution

You won’t be seeing a sale at Riverford this January – or at any other time. It might seem like we’re being mean, but the opposite is true: saying ‘no’ to discount marketing is fairest for everyone, including you!

Offers are everywhere. Banks offer you £150 to open an account, broadband companies have rock-bottom introductory tariffs, veg box suppliers give your fourth box free, supermarkets offer £20 off your first delivery… but where does all that money come from? Answer: someone else is made to pay for it, through inflated prices for existing customers, squeezing suppliers, or paying staff less.

It’s the model which almost all subscription businesses work to. If you can be bothered to be a ‘savvy shopper’ and spend your life forever switching suppliers you can do pretty well out of it, but as the service providers know full well, most of us are just too busy; or maybe we find a world where trust equates to ‘sucker’ so dispiriting that we would rather just ignore it and get duped.

For a while, we were part of the problem. We dipped our toes into the world of discount marketing, being persuaded that it was the only way to compete. But in 2014, Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson could bear it no longer, and proposed that we abandon this path of abusing the trust of our most loyal customers. It turned out that most of the staff agreed, so we stopped offering discounts, stopped paying dubious companies to knock on doors, stopped using voucher sites, and significantly cut back on leafleting and advertising. Instead we concentrate on growing good veg, looking after our existing customers, and have taken all sales back in-house through our own staff who know our veg and our values.

The response from the majority of our customers has been very positive. It turns out that most people, most of the time, are happy to pay a fair price; what it costs to make something in a competent and efficient manner with due respect for people and the environment, plus a modest profit. This is the basis upon which Riverford was founded 30 years ago. The results wouldn’t satisfy a venture capitalist investor, but we are happy to declare that we don’t offer anything to a new customer that we don’t offer to existing ones. That may sound tame, but in an industry racing to the bottom, it’s a quiet revolution.

Watch our video to find out why our approach is fairer to farmers as well as customers:

Win a stack of organic treats & blender, worth over £500

Here at Riverford, we really know our veg. Founded by Guy Watson (the Soil Association’s Best Organic Farmer 2017), we’ve been farming organically in Devon for 30 years: carefully selecting varieties for flavour, and looking after the soil, wildlife, and water sources.

However, organic doesn’t just stop at food and drink. This January, we’re teaming up with our friends at Pai Skincare to bring you a whole host of ethical prizes. With our passion for organic food and Pai’s passion for organic skincare, it’s a match made in heaven.

Pai’s passion for organic skincare came from wanting to enable people to take control of their skin, instead of putting up with products that are full of irritants. For Pai (meaning ‘goodness’ in Maori), pure and transparent ingredients are essential; they are proud of the lengths they go to in letting people know exactly what’s in their products.

For your chance to win a month’s supply of Riverford juicing and veg boxes, as well as lots of organic Pai Skincare treats and a top-of-the-range Sage ‘The Boss’ blender, enter our competition now.

Wooden nets & your thoughts about packaging

Hello, I’m Robyn – Riverford’s new(ish) packaging technologist. I’ve been working at Riverford HQ on the Devon farm for six months. Like everyone here, I’m passionate about food and the environment. Now that I’ve had some time to get to grips with the business and its ethos, I’m starting to review our existing packaging, making sure it reflects our ethics and looking at ways for us to improve.

Can’t live with it, can’t live without it
As much as people (ourselves included!) might wish that we could do without packaging entirely, it plays a huge part in ensuring product quality and enabling distribution through our whole supply chain – from the boxes that loop between our farm and your door, to the punnets that hold our mushrooms secure in transit. In general, our ethos is that less is more: if the product is robust enough to travel without being damaged, then there’s no need to add unnecessary packaging. Although we already look consciously at our packaging, my role has been created to really make sure that we’re doing the best we can.

Consistent customer feedback, as well as thoughts within Riverford, have lead me to rethink one item of our packaging first: plastic nets. We use these for items such as citrus and onions that are packaged in individual portions for people to add to their veg boxes or choose when building an individual order from scratch. My conundrum was this: we couldn’t get rid of nets entirely, as we rely on them to distribute equal-weight portions to every customer; and we couldn’t swap to another type of packaging without using even more material. I was stuck…. But then I came across a really exciting company in Austria that produces biodegradable net alternatives made from beech wood.

Wood, making a net?
It sounds strange, but actually works beautifully, and is very environmentally friendly. The wood is a by-product from the forestry industry: when the trees in PEFC-certified sustainable forests grow to a certain height, some are thinned out to give the remaining trees space and light to grow. The thinned-out trees would normally be burned; however, the net provides an alternative use. The wood is chipped and broken down further into pulp, spun into a string-like material, then knitted together into a net tube ready for our products.

Watch our video below to find out more about beech netting and how it’s made…

Needless to say, we decided to use the net – and in fact, have already started! We also have a large stock of plastic nets that we want to use up; you will still see some plastic nets in your boxes until we completely run out. We felt it would be wasteful to just throw away our existing stock, so as each plastic colour runs out we will replace it with the biodegradable version. Green and white biodegradable nets are already being used.

If you’re confused about what your net is made from, the feel will give it away: if it’s soft and natural feeling then you’ve got a biodegradable one. If it’s hard and plastic-y then it’s from the last of the plastic stock.

The way to dispose of your beech wood net is to cut off the metal clips (these aren’t biodegradable, though we are looking into alternatives) and put the net on your compost heap or in your council compost bin.

To find out more about our existing packaging and research with the University of Exeter, visit our packaging manifesto.

Share your thoughts on Riverford packaging
As part of my review of our existing packaging, I’m really keen to hear what customers think. If you have a few minutes to spare, please fill out the questionnaire below. I look forward to hearing your feedback, and will be personally reading the responses and bringing you more sustainable packaging changes in the future!

Click here to fill in the Riverford packaging survey

Pumpkin Day 2017; another year of autumnal cheer

On Saturday we opened our four farms’ gates to 6,00o visitors for our legendary annual Pumpkin Day event. Families across Devon, Yorkshire, Peterborough and Hampshire joined us for pumpkin carving, face painting, worm digging, live music, tasty organic food and a good dose of fresh farm air!

The weather was on our side and once again we had a successful year welcoming people to see where we grow our iconic veg. We’re not sure of the exact start date of Pumpkin Day, but the Watson family recall the event happening on our original Devon farm over 20 years ago.

A new addition this year was our wonderfully eccentric and rather noisy Human Veg Machine, where participants had to match veg to win prizes.

A huge thanks to everyone who came. Here’s a glimpse of the action.

Put pumpkin on your plate, not the bin!

Every year the UK wastes around 18,000 tons of perfectly edible pumpkin flesh and seeds as the nation carves away to make spooky Halloween lanterns.

Like squash, pumpkin is sweet and warming and can be delicious if cooked in the right recipes. Here are a few veg-centric recipes to help turn your pumpkin waste into a tasty meal or treat.

For all of the below you can substitute pumpkin for squash if you need a little inspiration to use up your Squash Box.


Pumpkin Madeleines with Pumpkin Custard & Cinnamon Meringue
Unusual and slightly long winded but totally worth it. The meringue isn’t necessary but adds an impressive finish. All the elements can be made individually if you don’t want to tackle the whole recipe.
See recipe

 


Pumpkin Fritters with Romesco
These fritters are simple to prepare and the romesco is a delicious accompaniment, but can be substituted for a simple mayonnaise mixed with paprika and garlic. We like the romesco with a mix of nuts rather than using just almonds. Cashews add a creamy taste to the sauce.
See recipe

 


Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Pumpkin Seed Dukka, Sumac Red Onions, Wootton White, Pistachio & Pomegranate
This dish has a Middle Eastern feel to it and is a good way to use up pumpkin flesh and seeds. Wootton White is an English Greek style sheep’s cheese and can be substituted with feta.
See recipe

 


Thai Pumpkin Curry
Squash and pumpkin work well in a Thai curry as the coconut milk complements the sweetness of the veg and lemony flavours add a fresh flavour. Make sure you bruise the lemongrass by bashing it with a rolling pin to release the aromatic flavour. If you don’t fancy making the paste, you can buy it ready made.
See recipe

The spirit of food, fun and togetherness at Abergavenny Food Festival.

Last week we packed up the Riverford Yurt, our Human Veg Machine and more and made our way to the small Welsh town of Abergavenny to what can only be described as the Glastonbury of all food festivals.

We set up camp in the gorgeous Linda Vista Gardens and spent the weekend inspiring people of all ages to Live Life on the Veg with us.

The yurt was home to Master Veg cooking classes where Ben showed attendees how to turn a brimming box of veg into an inspirational organic feast.

Our I Can Eat a Rainbow classes were a big hit with the little ones, where they made beautiful fruit and veg rainbows (and ate lots of “carrot rain” and fennel slices in the process!)

Close by at the demo area Head Chef at The Duke of Cambridge, Peter, wowed the crowds with his ‘cooking veg over fire’ show. Festival-goers watched on as Peter made charred lettuce and cucumber, ash cooked beetroot with charred orange, and queued in large numbers after to try his veg creations.

It was a full house for Guy’s appearance at the Great Farmyard Debate where he sat with Professor Tim Lang, John Davies from NFU Cymru and farmer Kate Beavan for an informal yet intellectual discussion on what agriculture may look like post-Brexit.

It’s safe to say however that the hit of the weekend was our Human Veg Machine. We made a lot of noise with whistles, the giant carrot bell and horns and played match the veg with hundreds of contestants eager to win Riverford prizes. We thought we were in a spot of trouble and making too much noise when we saw three police women approaching, but they just couldn’t resist a go either!

Yet again our weekend at Abergavenny was inspiring, fun and totally exhausting. The energy when a group of fantastic British producers, food journalists and food lovers come together in a beautiful location is infectious. We’re already looking forward to the next! Thanks to all who came and visited us during the weekend.

Diary of an IT intern

This summer, we were joined at the farm by Maddie – our first IT intern, from Bristol University. In her last week, she wrote about her experiences with us…

Almost as soon as I left home for university I became a Riverford customer. I was delighted by their ethical stance and their product. Eva Wiseman, a columnist at the Guardian, said receiving her veg box made her ‘feel a bit loved’ and I felt the same about my weekly veg delivery. So naturally, I was thrilled to spend the summer working as a software developer at Riverford.

After two years of a Computer Science degree I felt comfortable programming; however, while at Riverford I was regularly presented with challenges I’d never faced. In contrast to the paltry applications I’d tinkered with at university, I needed to read through pages of code, belonging to past iterations of the website, to fix a bug or add a new feature. Coping with the complexity of large code bases is a common hurdle for amateur software engineers and one I’d anticipated. However, the technological innovation at Riverford surpassed my expectations. I had a crash course in Clojure, a powerful functional programming language with alien syntax, and React.js, a fashionable Javascript library written by Facebook.

The projects I worked on were just as novel. One of which was automatically generating recommendations for the website. This involved strategically weighting statistics for popularity, seasonality and similarity to produce sensible product recommendations. I hope this feature offers a source of inspiration to customers whilst alleviating the burden for those tasked with curating these recommendations manually.

I am very grateful for my time at Riverford. I had the opportunity to work alongside exceptionally skilled developers who are passionate about their craft. What’s more, I leave this week with the same admiration for Riverford’s business ethic that I arrived with. It has been a pleasure to work with highly motivated people to further the prospects of a business with a proven commitment to the planet and its people.

Thank you, Maddie! It’s been wonderful having you with us!

25 years of Guy’s news

We have a new Riverford book in the pipeline for next year, and we need your help.

We’re asking customers of more than 10 years to tell us about their favourite newsletter – the older the better. Is there a story, opinion or rant which is particularly memorable? Email the title, date (if you know it) and your reason to emilymuddeman@riverford.co.uk.

Unlike today’s digital age, records were scarce in the early days. If you have any physical copies of our newsletters from 1993 to 2000, we’d love to see them.

Please photograph or scan to to emilymuddeman@riverford.co.uk , or pop in the post to:

Emily Muddeman
Riverford Organic Farmers
Wash Barn
Buckfastleigh
TQ11 0JU

You could get a mention in our next book!