Category Archives: Uncategorised

ITV donates £2m to ground-breaking veg campaign

Broadcaster ITV has donated £2 million to a campaign to promote consumption of vegetables in the form of primetime TV advertising space.

The adverts, part of the Veg Power campaign run by think tank The Food Foundation, will be created free of charge by creative agency Adam and Eve, who produced last year’s John Lewis Christmas ad ‘Moz the Monster’.

Announced yesterday at the Vegetable Summit event in London, the new ads will create “bold, engaging and creative content that will aim for real behaviour change and get everyone inspired to change their attitudes to veg.” They will reach two thirds of households with children, ITV said.

Production charges will be covered by a group of supermarkets, who each pledged to spend £50,000, including Iceland, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Lidl, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s.

The new funding and alliance of supermarkets is a huge coup for Veg Power, which is backed by food writer and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and was set up to tackle the rise in diet-related illness across the UK by encouraging everyone to eat more veg. It has received crowdfunded support from various other partners, including from Riverford Organic, which donated ten £50 veg box vouchers.

Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “It’s fantastic news that ITV and Veg Power are teaming up to deliver this exciting campaign. The world of veg is full of vibrant colours and exciting and diverse tastes and textures, and we want everyone – especially children – to love them more and eat them more. If they do it will make a huge difference to the health of the nation and the lives of our kids.”

ITV chief executive, Carolyn McCall, said: “We know that the power of TV can be used to shape culture and this new advertising campaign will really amplify the message that we all need to eat more veg by broadcasting to millions of viewers during ITV’s biggest programmes.”

Veg Power is a campaign created by The Food Foundation, and its Peas Please programme, and aims to boost the consumption of vegetables across multiple areas of society, including through advertising, education, accessibility in low-income areas, convenience formats, policy and partnerships with food manufacturers.

‘Unprecedented’ changes needed to tackle climate change

Shifting diets away from intensively-farmed animal products is one of the “rapid and far-reaching” transitions that must happen if global warming is to be kept within 1.5 degrees, a major new climate change report has warned.

Published today (8 October) by the prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the report said that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees is possible, but will require “unprecedented changes” in energy, land and ecosystems, urban infrastructure and industry. Currently, the world is on track to see temperatures rise by between 3 and 4 degrees.

As well as a shift in diets, the report also recommended a move to low or zero-emission power, such as renewable energy, electrifying transport, and developing green infrastructure, such as green roofs. Emissions from the livestock industry are one of the top contributors to global emissions, accounting for 14.5 per cent of the global total, primarily from the beef and dairy sectors.

Among the specific changes in land use and food production that would help limit emissions, the report highlighted sustainable diets and reduced food waste, soil sequestration, reduced deforestation and responsible sourcing.

The report was commissioned after the landmark Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, which included a pledge to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C.”

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said report co-chair, Hans-Otto Pörtner.

Another co-chair, Debra Roberts, told the BBC: “The report is very clear, this can be done, but it will require massive changes, socially and politically and accompanied by technological development.”

The report lists several major benefits of limiting warming to 1.5, rather than 2 degrees, including smaller losses in staple crops including maize, rice and wheat, and reduced risks to marine biodiversity. Coral reefs are predicted to completely disappear if temperatures rise by 2 degrees, compared to declining by 70-90 per cent at 1.5 degrees.

Sea levels will continue to rise under 1.5 degrees, but 10 million fewer people would be exposed to the risks of flooding than under 2 degrees, the report said.

The report also stressed that for any change to have an effect, it must be a ‘whole systems’ approach that links different sectors together with no trade off.

For example, turning land over to bioenergy crops to reduce reliance on fossil fuels can have a negative effect on food security by reducing the land available for food production, and cause biodiversity loss. On the other hand, reforestation helps absorb carbon dioxide, and can also provide food, work to purify water sources and protect ecosystems.

“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” said report co-chair, Valerie Masson-Delmotte.

The IPCC is the leading world body for assessing the science related to climate change, its impacts and potential future risks, and possible response options. The report was compiled by 91 authors from 40 countries.

Autumn squash varieties

The colours and light on the farm are changing as are the crops. The farm is a hive of activity as we excitedly get ready to welcome visitors from far and wide to our annual Pumpkin Day: from Ed, who has once again grown giant pumpkins, to Penny, who has been working hard in the polytunnel and created a lush jungle dotted with colourful gourds.

We love squash – marvellously bright and beautifully varied veg that herald the start of autumn. Our squash are sown in small pots in late April for planting out in mid May, and ready to harvest just at the point of the year when evenings are chilly and thoughts turn to cooking warming, nourishing dishes.

They can be stuffed, mashed, used in hearty salads, stews or risottos. The easiest way to enjoy them is roasted, which brings out the lovely, caramel sweetness. Simply peel and cut into chunks or curved wedges, toss in a little oil to coat and season. You can also add fresh herb sprigs (e.g. rosemary, thyme or sage) or spices (e.g. cumin, fennel seeds, or a little grated nutmeg). Roast at 190°C/Gas 5 for 25-30 minutes, until tender. If the skin is thin you can eat the roasted skin too.

If you are a squash enthusiast or fancy trying something different, our Squash Box is back! A great value way of trying at least 3 different varieties it comes with a recipe card to help you identify and cook them. Here are some basic tips to help you identify and make the most of each variety:

Bonbon

True to its name, the bonbon squash is small and sweet. It has dense, deep orange flesh, with a rich, honeyed flavour that’s really enhanced by roasting it. Top in our taste tests of 20 different squash varieties, it’s a firm favourite here on the farm.

Delicata

This small striped squash has mild, fragrant flesh with a creamy texture. Fantastically easy to prepare: just bake and eat it skin and all, no need to peel. Use as you would a marrow – try cutting it into thick discs and stuffing the hole with fragrant rice or spiced lamb.

Spaghetti Squash

The most mysterious variety, and one we get most questions about! Cut it in half lengthways, drizzle with oil, salt and pepper. Place cut side up on a baking tray and roast for about 1 hour (depending on size) until completely tender. Let it cool a little then scrape across the squash with a fork to separate the flesh into long strands which can be treated like spaghetti and served with sauce, or served cold and dressed as a salad.

Kabocha

Also known as Japanese squash, it can have either green or orange skin. With a sweet, firm flesh, it can be roasted in wedges with the skin left on or simmered, steamed and mashed. Lovely in a fragrant broth or spiced tagine. Add in chunks to a slow braised stew for the final 30 minutes to bring a hearty sweetness to a dish.

Uchi Kuri (Red Onion) Squash

This bright orange onion shaped squash has a softer flesh that is versatile, but perhaps best used for mash and risottos. Its large seed cavity is also ideal for stuffing. Remove the seeds with a large spoon, fill the cavity with a tasty pulse or grain-based stuffing and bake until the squash is tender.

Harlequin

This beautiful small squash is a painterly mix of yellow, orange white and dark green splashes. Inside, the orangey-yellow flesh has good flavour which also lends itself to being stuffed and roasted. A word of caution – never try to roast a whole uncut squash in an oven, they are rumoured to explode!

Sweet Lightning

Another very decorative squash, it may be small but is full of honey sweet, smooth flesh that roasts well. It also makes wonderful silky soups, or simply steam and mash with a small amount of cream or butter and pinch of nutmeg and season to taste.

Storage advice

Squash love to be in a warm dry place and can be stored for a long time like this. Enjoy their decorative charms by storing them on a kitchen shelf until you’re ready to eat them.

Squash seeds

Separate the seeds from the pulp and toss them with a little oil and salt or soy sauce. You can add flavours, such as spices, honey or dried herbs. Spread over a baking sheet and roast at 160°C/Gas 3 for 10-15 mins, until crisp and lightly golden. Once cool, the roasted seeds will keep in an airtight container for a week or so and make an excellent healthy snack, or to add crunch to salads.

Add a squash box to your order here.

Gove unveils new £15m fund for food waste

A new £15 million government fund will help tackle food waste and redistribute the equivalent of 250 million meals to those in need, environment minister Michael Gove has announced.

Speaking at this week’s Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Gove said the new scheme will specifically address waste from supermarkets and food manufacturers as the first part of a new ‘food strategy’.

“Every year, around 100,000 tonnes of readily available and perfectly edible food is never eaten. This has got to change,” he said. “In the coming months we will work closely with business, charities and volunteers to deliver a new scheme to tackle this problem.”

Leading food waste charity, FareShare, has welcomed the funding and said it will also help producers and farmers to offset costs linked to redistributing food.

FareShare chief executive Lindsay Boswell said: “Right now, it actually costs farmers, manufacturers and packers a lot less to dump or recycle fresh, in date food than to redistribute it to good causes – in part because of the cost of keeping the surplus food fit for human consumption.

“With the barriers to charitable food redistribution removed, businesses will no longer be penalised for doing the right thing with their food: using it to feed people.

“We see this fund as principally for food producers and not the supermarkets. The big supermarkets have already invested in charitable redistribution from their stores and this is about supporting their suppliers to do the same.”


In 2017, 205,000t of surplus food was wasted in the retail and food manufacturing sectors, according to the food waste charity Wrap, with around 100,000t of this estimated to be accessible, edible and available for redistribution. Currently, around 43,000t of surplus food is redistributed every year.

Further action to help cut food waste from all sources, including households, is being considered, Gove said.

Elsewhere in his speech, Gove said the Tories “will launch a new front in the war against waste” and “take steps to make recycling easier”, although offered no further detail.

It comes as this week Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson’s video rant on plastic packaging went viral on social media. In a rallying cry for concrete government action, Singh-Watson explained how efforts to recycle are hampered by fragmented kerbside collection processes across the country that discourage both home recycling efforts, and companies’ sustainable packaging policies.

The video has been shared almost 4,000 times on Facebook and Twitter, including by various high-profile food campaigners and academics. Leading food policy expert, Professor Tim Lang, tweeted: “Interested in plastics? Please watch this heartfelt, angry, informative, funny, demanding short video by Guy Singh-Watson. Says it all, really.”

Guy’s new book – Vegetables, Soil & Hope

Every week for over 25 years, Riverford founder and farmer, Guy Singh-Watson, has distilled his ruminations on ethical food, farming and business into a missive for our veg boxes.

We’ve pieced together a selection of them in a new book, Vegetables, Soil & Hope, alongside witty illustrations, to chronicle a quarter century of a life on the veg.

We have some of you to thank, for suggesting your most memorable newsletters for us to consider, and some of you who sent in ancient newsletters and helped us to fill gaps from the early years, when our file keeping wasn’t great.

Each piece promises to challenge the food on your plate, make you empathise with those who produce it, or celebrate Guy’s true vegetable loves, which include artichokes, bitter leaves and cardoons. And for some of you who have been customers for donkeys years, we hope the book might bring some veg box nostalgia.

The newsletters are brought to life with witty, colourful and inventive drawings, which we have Guardian Weekend artists, Berger and Wyse, to thank for.

“If any of its contents leads anyone to reconsider the nature of good farming or business, I will be happy. There are too many save-the-world books and most of them are too long. This one is short, and I hope, easy to ready.”
– Guy Singh-Watson

The book is available to add to your order now.

“Guy Singh-Watson has become well known for his “rants”… some may think his views extreme, but to me they make perfect sense. Anyone who thinks it matters where our food comes from, and what goes into it, will want to read this book. And anyone who doesn’t should be forced to read it!”
– Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

Guy’s news: Our reluctant but noble organic Lord

Peter Melchett, the reluctant but eminently noble Lord, environmental campaigner, and woolly-jumpered organic farmer, died last week. He had been policy director at the Soil Association for 17 years, having previously headed Greenpeace UK and been a Labour minister in the 1970s. It is hard to imagine anyone, whatever their politics, not being won over by his humanity, good will and charm; these, combined with his patient persistence and attention to detail, made him a fantastic campaigner who will be greatly missed. We didn’t always agree, but he invariably had research on his side, and time normally proved him right. I will miss the unfailing humility which ensured that, for all his charm, the issue always came first. If only privilege more often came with his modesty, and his sense of responsibility to the planet and its current and future inhabitants. As a vegetarian livestock farmer, he was also one of our most appreciative veg box customers and a loyal patron of our London pub The Duke of Cambridge.

To what degree does the end justify the means? If your cause is just and well researched, does its pursuit justify dogma-based evidence selection and manipulative presentation? There is no right answer; in the shouty, impatient world we live in, purity counts for little and everyone must make their own judgement as to acceptable compromise. I think Peter Melchett consistently got it right; he didn’t always go for the headline, but was sufficiently canny to be effective while commanding lasting respect. It was his analysis of the GM industry that kept me campaigning on the issue, long after feeling compromised by the sometimes extreme views and actions of the antis. As I was mounting a legal challenge to a local GM maize trial, Peter, as head of Greenpeace UK, went one step further and spent a brief time in jail for destroying a GM crop. Long may his campaigning spirit remain with us.

This is being typed on a ferry back from my farm in the Vendée, led into Plymouth by a pod of dolphins. After a wet spring and a weed-ridden start to the season, we are now seeing some good late crops. Peppers, aubergine and physalis are all doing well, our best ever crop of borlotti beans will be on sale for another month; their flavour and texture is great in salads.

Guy Singh-Watson

Two new Lancashire cheeses

Over the years we’ve taken our time finding small-scale producers across the country who make exceptional organic food to complement our veg. Our cheese range is full of moreish hand-crafted cheeses from people who share our core values and who have honed their specialist skills and passion over the years.

New to join the range are two classically British cheeses from Leagram Dairy, run by the Kitching’s family. Their small organic dairy is set in the beautifully remote Trough of Bowland countryside, Lancashire. It’s a very traditional operation: their organic milk is all sourced from local cows, and the cheeses are lovingly made by hand with tools that are over 120 years old. Dipping the cheese in hot wax seals in the texture while the cheeses mature, before the team cut each wedge by hand.


The business was originally started and run by Bob Kitching, whose passion of the art form of making cheeses lead him to travel the country with his wife, reviving the wonders of British cheeses. He had a keen interest in the traditional methods of making cheese. Despite Bob’s passing in 2013 this small family business has continued to thrive, with his wife Christine and daughter Faye sharing their passion and knowledge and the family business being awarded gold medals at the British Cheese Awards and the International Cheese Awards.

We’ve selected our two of our favourites: the Crumbly Lancashire for its creamy taste and crumbly texture, with a subtly sharp taste. It’s is a beautiful melter and so easy to eat. Tumble over fresh summer salads, or bubble into a decadent cauliflower cheese.

Next up is the Wensleydale which is a mild, delicately honeyed cheese. Pack this handsome white wedge into your picnic basket with some oatcakes and sweet chutney for a portable ploughman’s, or pair with apples on a summery cheeseboard.

Both cheeses are available to add to your order now.

 

Our new raw, organic honey

Organic honey is very hard to come by. A bee’s foraging distance is up to 12km, and for honey to be certified as organic, the honey producer must be able to prove that its bees have only foraged in organic land. These distances are beyond most producers’ capabilities, especially on our small island, where organic land is typically surrounded by non-organic farmland sprayed with artificial chemicals.

But after years of searching, we have found a fantastic organic honey producer: Bona Mel, a family run Spanish business who have been beekeeping for three generations, and organic since 1990. They are based in the Spanish mountains, where their hives are scattered across the natural parks of Sierra Mariola and La Safor, Alicante, which are home to an astonishingly rich natural variety of plants. To the bees, that’s a botanical smorgasbord, where blossom is available all year round.

Their raw wildflower honey is red tinged, with a fragrant, sweetly floral taste – and because they live in a completely uncultivated area, we can be certain that it’s 100% organic. The honey is raw, and prepared by bees with the nectar from various Mediterranean wild flowers.

Because Bona Mel produce, prepare and jar their honey themselves, it is traceable right back to the hive.

You can add Bona Mel honey to your order now: https://www.riverford.co.uk/shop/honey-250g

 

Feeding food surplus to pigs safely: a win for farmers and the environment?

Pigs have the potential to turn a massive food waste problem into a tasty solution. However, feeding food waste to pigs is currently banned in the UK, after illegal practices by a farmer in the ‘90s lead to the disastrous effects of Foot and Mouth Disease.

Feedback’s The Pig Idea are campaigning to reintroduce food waste feed to pigs in the UK, to potentially make a use for 2.5 million tonnes of wasted food a year.

There are still some questions about how it would work, especially in organic farming, but it’s clear that The Pig Idea has the potential to make a huge difference to waste, pig welfare, and the environment. Karen Luyckx from The Pig Idea explains more in this guest blog. We’re interested to hear what you, our customers think; you can give your feedback in the short survey linked below.

Photo Credit – Chris King Photography / The Pig Idea

For thousands of years, humans have fed pigs on food waste. Pigs were domesticated to be the original recycling banks – or “piggy banks” – enthusiastically eating food that was inedible to humans and converting it into edible food in the form of pork. But omnivorous livestock like poultry and pigs are now primarily fed on crops like soy, rapeseed, wheat and barley using up valuable land and resources.

I’ve lived and worked for six years in Bolivia and seen with my own eyes the devastation done by large-scale soya farming in the Amazon. It’s heart-breaking to see such unparalleled biodiversity turned into a green desert of soy monoculture as far as the eye can see.

Photo credit – Adriano Gambarini / WWF Brazil.

The UK imports 2.5 million tonnes of soy a year mostly for use in livestock. Even though the industry is busily looking for more eco-friendly replacements, the total volume of soy imports keeps rising year on year, with the great majority still coming from South America and organic soy from as far as China.

Soy is needed in pig and chicken diets because of it offers high quality plant proteins necessary for omnivorous animals fed on plant-based feed only. Meat-containing leftovers were banned for all livestock, regardless of these being herbivores or omnivores, after a farmer illegally fed untreated food waste to pigs and caused the disastrous Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001.

But we now have the opportunity and the evidence to revisit safe, economically and environmentally attractive ways to reintroduce the use of food surplus as feed. In the same way that we should cook chicken properly to make sure it is safe and avoid raw chicken juice getting onto our plates, we will need to cook the surplus food to kill off disease and then make sure we store and transport it safely. Japan already does this in modern treatment plants. Please see the REFRESH expert report for more information on the safety measures.

Surplus food treatment plant in Japan

Feeding more food waste to pigs and chickens could yield substantial benefits. If the whole of Europe were to feed heat-treated surplus food to pigs at the same rate as is currently done in Japan, we could save global agricultural land equal to the size of Wales, including hundreds of thousands of acres of South America’s biodiverse forests and savannahs.

And the United Nations estimates that if farmers all around the world fed their livestock on the food we currently waste and on agricultural by-products, enough grain would be liberated to feed an extra three billion people, more than the additional number expected to be sharing our planet by 2050.

For the UK, Feedback has calculated that about 2.5 million tonnes of food that currently goes to waste could be used to feed pigs and chickens, that’s about 20% of the UK’s total food waste.

Current feed costs – representing over 60% of total production cost of pork – are a nightmare for farmers. At the same time, in Japan, surplus food to feed treatment plants produce feed at half the cost of conventional feed. Reducing feed costs may support farmers’ livelihoods and help increase investment in animal welfare.

This pig has just enjoyed an exciting whey and veggie leftover porridge (currently allowed). Photo by Feedback.

Looking at the science, we also know that deficiencies in certain types of protein may exacerbate tail and ear biting in pigs. While tail biting is caused by a combination of factors, replacing conventional feed with heat-treated leftovers that contain meat may contribute to a reduction in tail biting, allowing pigs to return to the type of diet they have evolved to eat as omnivores.

This is why Feedback calls on the UK to lift the current ban on using catering waste and food surplus, from retail and manufacturing, as feed for omnivorous non-ruminant livestock, such as pigs and chickens. We propose that this ban is replaced with robust legislation regulating the treatment of this surplus food in off-farm licensed processing facilities so that it is safe.

Read our report to find out more about why feeding leftovers to pigs and chickens is safe and why it is a win-win for farmers and the environment. We also hope it is a win for people who love a tasty sausage or pork chop but worry about the impact conventional livestock production has on the environment, but we would love to hear what you think.

What you can do to help?
Fill out our 10 minute survey to share your views with us.

Guy’s news: Unknown unknowns, freak weather and screw-ups

Before Donald Rumsfeld gave the world ‘unknown unknowns’, Riverford had the Screw-up Factor. My early budgetary computations included an estimate of crop risk arising from poor germination, pestilence, adverse weather, market forces and human error. The estimates were based on experience to date. But what about the previously unexperienced; freak weather, unknown diseases or mineral deficiencies? These were accounted for in the Screw-up Factor.

My 30 years of growing have been a long battle to reduce the Screw-up Factor. It started at 30% of the budget, but with accumulating experience we have brought it down to about 10%. That victory, our success, and the affordability of our veg are all dependent on refining our practices to make the best of the conditions we know. If those conditions change, we are back to square one.

I am typing this on the train home from our farm in the Vendée, where our well laid plans were trodden into the mud by a wet start to the year. The last two very dry summers in France suggested our investment priority there should be a new reservoir; this year, we have barely used our existing water store, and 10% of our budget will not come close to covering the losses. At home in Devon, even 30% may not cover the consequences of a ten-week drought.

I am reluctant to attribute it prematurely to changing climate, but this pattern of longer and more frequent periods of extreme weather does fit the predictions for climate change. In temperate Devon, with enough time and investment we can adjust to substantial changes in the norm. What’s harder to adapt to is unpredictability; the widening variation that ‘the norm’ may become.

Having abandoned the frosted beans, some weed-smothered sweetcorn, and split kohlrabi and turnips, the remainder of the Vendéen crops look good. The first corn will be in your boxes this week, possibly along with a few grubs of the corn borer moth; once rare in our region, but moving north in hot years. The obviously affected cobs are graded out, but some will inevitably get through – let us know if you get one and we will refund you. We did release predators that achieve a good level of control over these pests, but it seems we should have released them earlier. Another screw-up, but at least this one we can learn from.

Guy Singh-Watson