news from the farm - january 2007

As we draw closer to February, when the first River Swale vegboxes will leave the farm, the excitement and tension are beginning to mount. The building still fondly known as the Pig Shed is taking shape and will be transformed into its new guise as packing barn before the year is out. This will be our first Christmas with no pigs to feed. We do miss them, but a lie-in on Christmas day will be a treat, and we know that life will soon be full of harvesting veg and getting them packed into the boxes. Electricity will be installed in the New Year, so that we will be able to see to pack the boxes on those cold, dark winter mornings. Seeing the first boxes and bags with the River Swale name emblazoned across them makes us realise that this really is going to happen.

They say that all good things come to those who wait and our boxes will be no exception. Even though February seems far away, in the growing world the next eight weeks will fly by as we finalise plans for what vegetables will be ready when. We want to keep everything as local as possible, but we are lucky that our sister farms, River Nene near Peterborough and Riverford in Devon, will be able to help us out in the early days. We will benefit especially from Devon's milder climate with some crops ready to harvest earlier.

The roots of the River Swale box scheme go back nearly 15 years, to when Guy Watson began selling vegboxes from Riverford, his family farm in Devon. Over the years we have watched Riverford's award-winning box scheme go from strength to strength. The success has been built on a co-operative of local growers working with Riverford to produce a huge range of vegetables for the boxes. We loved the feel of Riverford when we visited. The place hums with enthusiasm - for good food, for farming, for the environment, for finding a better way of doing things. What made Riverford special was that Guy wanted to share the success of Riverford, but not truck vegetables the length and breadth of the country. Instead he has worked with growers like us in other areas to set up more local box schemes using Riverford's experience and approach.

And so that was how the River Swale seed was sown. Since then we have been busy getting ready for our first box deliveries. We have persuaded quite a number of local farmers to work with us to get the best local produce into your boxes. Crops have been planned for the months ahead and we are all watching the progress of our parsnips, cabbages and purple sprouting broccoli, with everyone eager to try the new leek harvester we have bought.

All we need now is some dry & bright weather (the weeks of relentless rain have made harvesting some of our crops difficult) and lots of lovely customers placing orders! So we are thinking sunny thoughts and dreaming of delivering our first boxes in the New Year.

Joanne Richardson