Monday 10th May 2010
Riverford or River Swale?
It is 16 years since I packed my first vegboxes in a cow shed at Riverford in Devon and delivered them locally in a beaten up Transit, in a bid for freedom from the clutches of supermarkets and wholesalers. Ten years later the Devon farm seemed to have grown big enough, but I had something of the restless Richard Branson in me and wanted to see what we could grow elsewhere. This led to the launch of River Nene with the Burgess brothers on the edge of the Fens in 2005, then River Swale in Yorkshire with Peter Richardson in 2007. Since then there have been similar collaborations in Cheshire and Hampshire, sharing our knowledge and systems, but keeping the link between grower and customers as local and personal as possible.
It has worked pretty well and we are still growing, but I am often asked why we have different names. The answer lies partly in a desire for regional identity and partly in a personal, philosophical objection to big brands. Having explained this so many times over the last four years, I have come to appreciate that philosophy got the better of me; we have a long way to go before having to worry about being like Tesco. More pragmatically there is a lot of wasted expense in maintaining different packaging, stationery, websites etc. Perhaps the decisive factor was when Jane Baxter and I published our book last year; we had a huge amount of positive publicity (it is already running to a second edition) but it was hard for this to benefit River Nene and River Swale. Explaining our sisterhood of box schemes with their regional names is too complex for our sound-bite world.
or Riverford on home farm?
So from 1st April, we will all become Riverford. Your boxes will come from Riverford on Home Farm. You