The French farm was set up by Riverford founder, Guy Singh-Watson, as a sustainable way to provide variety in our boxes through the Hungry Gap; the few weeks, usually in April-May, after winter crops end but before spring crops are ready to harvest. During this time, UK veg is sparse, and we are more reliant on our grower friends in France and Spain – so why not have our own farm in Europe? When we can’t grow things naturally in the UK, importation by road is greener by far than growing them in the UK using artificial heat. For example, our research with the University of Exeter found that trucking over sun-ripened tomatoes from Spain uses anything from 2-10 times less carbon than growing them in a heated glasshouse in the UK.
Having decided to set up a Riverford farm in France, careful thought went into choosing the location. Ten miles from the western coast, Le Boutinard is perfectly positioned: the levels of light and rainfall are just right for producing a bounty of spring crops that are ready to harvest a few vital weeks ahead of the UK. And just 250 miles away by road, Le Boutinard is the same distance from our Devon farm as the Fens.
While the different soil, climate and culture provided some challenges in the early years, the French farm has become a vital part of Riverford. You can hear more about it in Guy’s video below: