Riverford Wicked Leeks

midsummer madness

Monday 10th May 2010

What happened to the predicted drought and heat wave? We will pass midsummer with our reservoirs full to the brim, tractors making ruts in muddy fields, trays of plants laid out everywhere waiting for a break in the weather and a team wading through mud at Glastonbury giving organic festival food guides to addled festival goers. Most crops have survived the deluge but potato blight has taken hold very early leaving our co-op growers anxiously watching the weather forecast.

Where did the serfs go?

Between the showers we are managing to get most of the work done and there have been enough dry hours to get the strawberries picked. The press has carried a few stories over recent weeks about the lack of strawberry pickers. The reality is that very little fruit and veg is ever touched by an indigenous British hand; most are picked by East Europeans and seemingly they can now do better. Over the last ten years the influx of East Europeans legally and illegally seeking work, with very low expectations, has been a mixed blessing. Few would question their industriousness and contribution to the holy grail of economic growth but it has allowed some very shady, Victorian style employment practices and bolstered the arrogance of some lazy, regressive employers.

We have no problems attracting and retaining staff, both East European (1/3) and local (2/3). Perhaps we pay a little more than average but mostly it is about building relationships and treating staff with respect rather than expecting a van from an agency to disgorge a mass of expendable operatives each day. People deserve to be paid a decent wage and treated well - to achieve that perhaps we should be paying more for our food.

Carbon offsetting; don