Many years ago now, Peter Richardson met Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson – around the time Guy realised he couldn’t single-handedly grow enough to fill our increasingly popular veg boxes. The Richardsons, sharing our passions for organic farming and for the tastiest veg, soon became one of our most vital regional growers.
To this day, we rely on them for all sorts of organic staples across the seasons: beetroots, Brussels sprouts, cabbages (January King and Savoy), Calabrese broccoli, black kale, curly kale, leeks, white and red potatoes, spinach, Swiss chard… You name it, the Richardsons grow it! These days, Peter’s son Jake is at the helm, the fourth generation of Richardson to tend their land in Newby Wiske, Yorkshire.
Peter and his wife Jo Ann had always grown cereals and potatoes and kept pigs at Home Farm. In 1996, Peter converted the farm to organic, renewing his love of food production and acting as a caretaker of the land. He also began to grow more vegetables.
“I think at the time it was a bit of a leap in the dark. We did a bit of homework and the organic market seemed to be growing, there seemed to be a future in it, so we bit the bullet,” he says.
“Now we’re into it we are a very principled organic grower. There’s a great array of wildlife on the farm now, and also a few more weeds about.
“But it’s a sustainable way of going on. It does work,” says Peter. And there is, he adds, an upside to all the weeding, too. “It’s very satisfying. You feel more of an intimate relationship as you weed the crops, rather than just going across with a sprayer.”
The key to success is being strict about crop rotation. “With conventional farming, you could plant potatoes in the same place every three years but with organic methods it’s once every seven years. You don’t want the pests and soil-borne diseases.”
The Richardsons have gone even further than organic certification in making Home Farm as sustainable as possible. They’ve worked hard to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, installing solar panels and an anaerobic digester which creates clean power by taking existing farm waste – including pig waste – and generating gas to produce heat and electricity.
“We’re proving that we can produce tasty, homegrown food here in the North with a very small carbon footprint,” Jake says.
Working with Riverford has given the Richardsons a far closer connection to the people who end up eating their veg, with some of our local customers even visiting Home Farm (which sometimes hosts Riverford events):
“There’s a closer connection with the customer, there’s no two ways about it.”
And of course, Riverford doesn’t mind if courgettes exceed 21cm. “They can’t for the supermarket because they won’t fit in the packet. But there are no compromises on the quality for Riverford – you’re just utilising more of your crop.”