Tag Archives: website

guy’s newsletter: spice girl revelry & a dream for 2015

After a soggy start with some drowned early lettuce and potatoes, 2014 turned out to be one of the best growing years we’ve had. Plenty of sunshine and just enough summer rain falling at the right times was followed by an exceedingly ‘long back end’. I always love saying that; for the uninitiated, it’s farming speak for those long and mild autumns we often get in Devon when the grass keeps growing; this year the long back end spread across the whole country and as a consequence we go into the winter surrounded by an embarrassment of greens.

With such veg abundance it is a continued frustration that we aren’t equally good at selling the stuff; we remain well behind the game with our website and communications. Our aim is to use digital technology, texts and the rest to bring our fields into your kitchen in a way which is appropriate to your cooking style (ie. without bombarding you with unwanted information); your allotment without the work is the dream. We will use our experience of running a restaurant, a pub, and cooking for our staff and the local school to encourage you to eat seasonally in a way which is easy for you. Realising that dream is about getting the right people behind it and we now have a truly genius and utterly determined team. This time next year we might be as good at running a website and managing data as we are at growing kale and packing vegboxes.

Last week we had our staff party; a raucous and unashamedly high-spirited affair. Ten years ago I would have been cooking for a week, mixed the cocktails and ensured that however drunk we got, it was all on organic booze and done with impeccable, if rustic, good taste. In retrospect I think maybe I needed to get over myself; I don’t think I will ever like Jӓgerbombs, the music was atrocious and if there was any food I missed it, but none of that mattered. Did my mother turn in 06her grave? Actually I think she would have liked it too. Best fancy dress went to the combined IT and accounts departments’ Spice Girl effort; disturbingly good, even with (or thanks to?) two male members. Thanks for your support in 2014. Next year our website will be as good as our vegetables. Box prices will be unchanged in the New Year. Merry Christmas.

Guy Watson

not a lot about vegetables

I have been brought to my knees by potato blight, hail storms, supermarket buyers and drought, but none of that prepared me for the last two months of website hell. As we have matured we have become calmer and more philosophical about coping with the uncontrollable, but the last few weeks have left me wanting to scream and shout, punch and stamp. I can’t remember feeling such frustration since I wept in a field of dying potatoes 25 years ago. If only a temper tantrum and a sledgehammer would help.
I can only assume that those of you who have encountered our website falling over or running at a snail’s pace, or have had the wrong stuff delivered, must be feeling the same way. Most of you are showing much more maturity than me. We are getting some understandably irate calls (and our favourite message “I’ll have to apologise to my laptop for all the terrible things I’ve said to it tonight” from a customer on Facebook), but for the most part I am amazed by, and incredibly thankful for, your patience and loyalty. Without it, the business I am so proud of would be in dire straits. I am also very grateful to and proud of our staff and your local veg teams. They are equally frustrated but are working unbelievably hard to keep some semblance of service going.
Apologies and explanations start to sound lame at this point. A tantrum might bring some brief relief, but I would quickly feel foolish wielding a sledgehammer surrounded by whirring debris. So we must feign maturity and sort out the mess. There is no doubt we have made mistakes, but we are slowly climbing up what is proving to be a very slippery pole, back to normality.
We do have the first English new potatoes in the boxes this week and there is lots going on in the fields, but right now all that seems to matter is a string of noughts and ones being shepherded around the ether. Once again thank you for your patience. We will get there. If not I am off to live in a cave.
Guy Watson

guy’s newsletter: websites, seeds & petition fatigue!

As we continue to struggle with our new website, I have run off to France to bury my head in chilli plants and pretend it is not happening. It’s getting pretty tedious for all concerned: you, our customers, our local vegmen and ladies who deliver your boxes, our customer service team, and our IT department who are working 24/7 to keep the show afloat while trying to fix it. I have never felt so inadequate in the face of a challenge. I did offer my help, but the last thing they need is the ineffectual flapping of the technically illiterate. We know how frustrating it is for you all and we are working on getting it fixed as quickly as humanly possible. Sorry, sorry and sorry again.

Here in the French Vendée, we are cutting the last of the lettuce, prior to the Devon crop next week. The courgettes are flowering and the sweetcorn and beans are emerging. We are trying to save the carrots before they are submerged by weeds, but with other jobs stacking up I suspect some will be lost. The worst weeds are the tomatillos that self-seeded last year and have emerged with impressive vigour; note to self, never to follow them with a weed-sensitive crop again.

Do you suffer from petition fatigue? How many things can you muster outrage about each month? In a bout of bureaucratic excess that almost beggars belief, the EU commission are contemplating forbidding us from growing anything that is not registered, approved and licence paid for. Effectively it would be illegal to save, exchange or sell seed that is not on their list. It’s enough to make you join UKIP; almost. It is particularly bad news for organic farmers, small independent gardeners, seed banks and general diversity. It is good news for global seed companies and industrial farming. After much campaigning, some of the worst absurdities have been modified, but it still seems like a bad and unnecessary piece of legislation. If, like me, this makes you mad, please sign the petition at www.seed-sovereignty.org.

And lastly, today (Friday 10th May), is the last chance to vote for us in the esteemed Observer Ethical Awards.

Guy Watson

boxes, websites & the search for a better way

Please, please send us back those empty boxes. We are even keener to get them back right now, before we move onto our revamped box range in June, making it hard to reuse any old boxes lurking in the back of your garage. Please leave out any boxes for your vegman/lady to collect and we will do the rest.

You may have noticed some weird things happening on our website recently, while we changed the mechanics underneath. Sorry to those of you affected. I am pretty sure that by the time you read this we will have resolved the problems, but if you are having any trouble with logging in or with payments, call us on 01803 762059 and we will help you.

We had been swimming along for too long with an idiosyncratic system that had evolved over twenty years, and have now moved to a more conventional platform that will let us join the rest of the world and move forward. Even with much planning and many sleepless nights from our IT crew, it was never going to be easy. But the change will allow us to do lots of things better in the future.

The vegbox scheme is our way of matching grower supply and customer demand. It gives growers a secure market for their produce (instead of having to brave the brutal open market), and brings customers fresher, tastier fruit and veg with known provenance. It works wonderfully for us and for our farmers, but makes the dubious assumption that you are all pretty much the same; clearly a problem. The web, along with savvy IT, offers so many exciting possibilities to do things better: to reduce waste, to inform and inspire you in the kitchen and to tailor our deliveries to your cooking style.

I want to share with you the excitement I feel when I walk around the farm planning recipes for my supper, to make use of seasonal food at its peak and to keep the journey as short and swift as possible. I want to auction you a boat’s catch before it has landed, to sell wild garlic and nettles from our woods when they are at their very best, to stop sending Jerusalem artichokes to people who can’t take the wind… This is hugely exciting, but to make it happen we need those clever spods in IT just as much as we need the burly farmers.

Thanks to your efforts, we have been nominated for two Observer Ethical Awards this year. We’ve made the final shortlist for Retailer of the Year, and I’m proud to be nominated for Campaigner of the Year.

Thank you

Guy Watson

oh, for an abacus

My patience with modern technology is not good and I am well known in the office for my computer-induced tantrums, so I would like to apologise to those of you who have suffered such frustrations with our new website. The changeover has been fraught with difficulties and in many ways the old one did the job, so it would be reasonable to ask, as many of you have, why we changed it.

Fundamentally we wanted to make it easier for you to use (by making it more like other websites) and easier for us to keep it updated as crops come in and out of season. We had reached the end of the road with our inflexible and increasingly idiosyncratic old website; every time we wanted to do something new, the “computer said no”. We needed to rejoin the mainstream and follow everyone else with a conventional shopping basket. Carving your own path in IT when your speciality is growing vegetables is not a good idea.

The site is now running much more quickly and we are working on the teething problems. It will be an ever-evolving beast. It is now possible to see all the box contents on one page (a foolish omission) and we have tried to make the checkout process more intuitive. Thanks for staying with us and for the feedback (which wasn’t all negative); it has been useful. I am forever sceptical about claims from the IT industry, but those who know more than I do assure me we are moving in the right direction. If you are having trouble, please give us a call on 0845 600 2311 or 01803 762059; we will be very happy to help. 

Guy Watson