Wash Farm is our original South Devon home. Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson started the business here in 1987, and we’ve been growing organic veg at Wash ever since. If you’re ever nearby, you’re more than welcome to come for a walk (the view, across fields and wood-shrouded hills, is a bit of a show-stopper). Or join us for a veg-centric feast at The Riverford Field Kitchen.
In 1951, Wash Farm’s Church of England tenancy was taken over by the “idealistic and pitifully inexperienced” John Watson and his wife Gillian. Their children grew up watching John farm with an ecological awareness that was well ahead of his time, questioning the sustainability and animal welfare of the intensive farming practices that exploded into popularity after World War II. Wash Farm also became possibly the first farm in the country to open for tours, demystifying agriculture for visitors.
“There was no overt pressure for us to continue in food and farming,” says Guy, “but it was deeply instilled in us that we should do something useful with our lives, and nothing else seemed to make the grade.” After a brief, unhappy stint as a management consultant in London and New York, Guy hung up his suit and returned to Wash to start growing veg.
Having made himself sick spraying corn as a teenager, and seen his brother hospitalised with Paraquat poisoning, Guy decided to experiment with organic growing. It wasn’t easy; he had just one field, his own two hands, and a borrowed tractor. But the first crop of leeks were a brilliant success, and he hasn’t looked back since. Today, everything we grow is 100% organic.
“I came to relish the challenge of finding my own solutions to agronomic problems rather than following the prevailing belief that the answer to every difficulty lay in a chemical container,” Guy says. “Latterly, this has evolved into a belief that we must find a more harmonious and holistic way of living within the limits of our planet.”
The green genius of our growers keeps Wash Farm’s fields bursting at the hedges. Alongside each season’s staples, there’s always something weird and wonderful to be found; from alien-looking kohlrabi and cardoons, to forgotten Victorian favourite, salsify roots, and bitter leaves such as red radicchio and dandelion greens. For something sweet, our perennial fruit crops: rhubarb, plums, gooseberries, currants, and elderflower that goes straight to Luscombe and into your glass of elderflower bubbly.
We also have several acres of polytunnels. These allow us to grow planet-friendly salad all year round without artificial heat or light. We grow experimental tomato varieties, award-winning mini-cucumbers, fresh herbs, chillies, spring onions, and a rainbow of different salad leaves.
In the late ‘90s, Guy realised that one farm alone could no longer provide enough veg to keep up with the demand for Riverford’s boxes. He founded the South Devon Organic Producers (SDOP) co-operative – uniting small-scale organic farmers from the area around Wash Farm. The SDOP has not just survived, but thrived, becoming possibly the UK’s largest organic growers’ co-operative. Together we all share tools, knowledge, and expert field staff.
In 2018, Wash Farm (along with the rest of the business) became owned by Riverford’s employees. Guy decided employee ownership was the best way to protect Riverford’s values, and preserve its independence forever. And no venture capitalist knows veg like we do.