Riverford Wicked Leeks

News - 2012

Friday 26th April 2013

We opened the large tunnels fully last week and just let the gale blow through. No flimsy polythene was going to stop that wind. The tunnels survived and the winter salads looked a little windswept but none the worse for the experience. A smaller tunnel was shredded but we are... continued

Friday 26th April 2013

Back in the 1990s, when I was still striving to appease supermarket buyers, I was appalled by the waste that inevitably resulted from pursuing their fickle favour. Vegboxes are the antithesis of this. The contents of your boxes have been meticulously planned; cropping plans and prices agreed with our growers... continued

Friday 26th April 2013

It’s bright, dry and frosty and we are busy digging parsnips for Christmas, lifting carrots, sowing broad beans and picking sprouts. The weather is due to break again at the weekend but I am hoping that by the time you read this, the last of the carrots will be in... continued

Friday 26th April 2013

We had a hiccup with the newsletters this week; not for the first time, one of my less conventional ideas went a little wrong when i miss estimated the shelf life of a chilli. the whole lot; chilli, rosemary, thyme along with the origami folded card ended up as compost.... continued

Thursday 30th January 2014

Seventy acres of potatoes are still in the ground, patiently waiting for dry weather a month after harvest is usually finished. Although this year’s harvest has been woefully slow, we are making better progress. The onions are in store and dry. Swedes and parsnips are looking good. If we can... continued

Friday 26th April 2013

On and on it goes; the river is spilling out of its banks, springs are rising from unexpected places and once again the ground is sodden. We enjoyed a brief respite in the middle of November and managed to harvest some carrots. Conditions were borderline and they came out of... continued

Wednesday 24th April 2013

Thanks to all of you who have offered support following our appearance on Countryfile in my bid to become the BBC’s Farmer of the Year. If you are sufficiently interested, there was also a more in depth interview on Radio 4 (www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01n98v3). And another thanks to the hundreds of you... continued

Monday 22nd April 2013

Pesticides have made farmers’ lives easier and have helped produce cheap food but their long history suggests they are seldom as ‘safe’ as initially claimed. Their incredible potency is normally achieved by disrupting cellular processes that are often shared well beyond their target species. Only a tiny proportion of pesticide... continued

Friday 26th April 2013

Last time I met Keith Abel, Riverford’s arch rival, he told me over a pork pie: “The problem with you, Guy, is that you’re so f…ing boring”. He looked pretty pleased with life and I wondered if he was right. We started our businesses about the same time. He was... continued

Friday 26th April 2013

25 years ago, having given up my brief career as a management consultant, I returned to my father’s farm for Christmas to rethink my life. Milking cows in a family partnership hadn’t worked for me; nor had the urban hedonism of 1980s London and New York. I concluded that I... continued

Friday 26th April 2013

Back in the early ’80s, before Riverford was organic, it was my job to spray the barley. The chemical cocktail was vile and I regularly suffered headaches, but the government’s directorate assured me the herbicides, insecticides and fungicides were safe for me, the environment and consumers. Over the last 40... continued

Friday 26th April 2013

A few days of dry, bright weather last week allowed us to finish planting the over wintered onions and garlic. We still have 70 acres of potatoes in the ground; most days it is too wet for the huge modern harvesters to move and the harvesting webs that sieve the... continued

Wednesday 24th April 2013

For years we agonised over whether the benefits of tunnels (earliness, quality and cropping reliability) justified the eyesore. Last year we took the plunge and covered three acres of our best land with polytunnels, doubling our area of protected cropping. Despite the lack of sunshine, these three acres have been... continued

Friday 26th April 2013

September has been a relatively dry month, allowing the root harvest to progress well. We grew a little spring barley this year and now the crop has been cleared, we are anxious to get the ground covered with a green manure before winter sets in. It used to be traditional... continued

Friday 26th April 2013

The sun is out, I’ve just swum in the reservoir and I have instructions to write my 400 words without moaning. If I carry on with my weekly liturgy of doom, my sister Rachel, who looks after marketing, is going to give this job to someone more cheerful. Back in... continued

Monday 22nd April 2013

The rain has abated, the ground has dried up well and it’s time to gather in and make the most of what has survived the deluge. No one will starve, indeed the carrots and parsnips are doing pretty well, but we will have only half the projected yields of potatoes.... continued

Monday 15th April 2013

As I write, a ridge of high pressure is edging in from the Atlantic and threatening to build into the high pressure system we have been waiting for all summer; too late for most schoolchildren’s holidays, too late for many a fair, festival and fête; too late for our stunted... continued

Friday 26th April 2013

I have found my dream crop; now all I have to do is persuade you to eat it. Most commercial fruit and veg varieties have been bred over many generations for uniformity, yield, earliness and cosmetic appearance. In the process they have lost the ability to look after themselves, needing... continued

Friday 26th April 2013

After a month of picking sweetcorn and tomatillos on our farm in France, I am back in Devon and wondering why. It’s still raining but everyone seems remarkably cheery and no-one seems to have missed me; slightly disturbing to the ego but I’ll put it down to my management skills.... continued

Friday 26th April 2013

When I converted the first of my father’s fields to organic in 1986, my motivations were primarily to avoid the agrochemicals that put my brother in hospital and made me ill as a teenager, and also a sense that it offered me a better chance of making some money. Over... continued

Friday 3rd August 2012

It is said that the difference between a good and a bad farmer is a week; timing is critical. While pulling three-foot-high fat hen, redshank and nightshade weeds from a crop of flageolet beans on our farm in France this morning, I had cause to reflect on this. Weeding a... continued

Friday 27th July 2012

Down in the Vendée the maize is head-high and growing so fast you can almost hear it. We are picking sweetcorn (maize’s smaller, sweeter and less robust cousin) for your boxes a full six weeks ahead of the UK. Our season started well, with lettuce in March, but this was... continued

Thursday 19th July 2012

Our crops are desperate for sunshine and an end to the deluge. July is our busiest month and, this year, mud is our biggest problem. In the next two weeks we must plant most of the leafy vegetables for harvesting from October through to next April. When it stops raining... continued

Thursday 12th July 2012

The story behind tomato farming offers a neat package of persuasion for anyone looking to encourage seasonal eating. Firstly, the complex, grassy flavour and aroma of a proper soil-grown British tomato is unmistakable, with no comparison to hydroponically produced (using a chemical solution of nutrients rather than living soil) hothouse... continued

Thursday 5th July 2012

I have tried gathering wild rock samphire from the base of cliffs many times and, no matter what I tried culinary-wise, found it vile to eat. Imagine a flavour somewhere between chlorine and petrol and you’ll get the idea. Ignorant of the difference, I was initially sceptical when Chris Miller,... continued

Thursday 28th June 2012

I found Martin, our harvest manager of 14 years, pruning the rosemary outside the office this morning and asked him how things were going. “Croppageddon” he said with a resigned smile, and went back to his work. Botrytis-ridden strawberries, chocolate-spotted broad beans and mildewed onions. Nitrogen-hungry rocket, stunted pumpkins and... continued

Thursday 21st June 2012

The longest day has passed and still we are waiting for the veg. I know these newsletters are becoming a liturgy of doom but it’s been a dreadful three months. The boxes are starting to improve a little but, with so many early crops failing or underperforming in cold and... continued

Thursday 7th June 2012

I have never seen such desire for cabbages from customers and friends as I have in recent weeks; absence clearly makes the stomach grow fonder. Delayed planting means we continue to be short of greens, so much so that I’ve been eating nettle tops, wild garlic, broad bean tops, and... continued

Wednesday 30th May 2012

Summer has finally shown up and your boxes will soon be bountiful and varied…but not yet; the stuff has to grow first. By June we should be seeing the start of many new season crops like strawberries, beans, carrots, and summer cabbage, but as most are running two weeks late,... continued

Monday 28th May 2012

Last week on my way to our French farm, I accompanied my brother to a wine fair featuring producers who use a minimum of additives, particularly sulphites. Non-organic winemakers often liberally use this hangover-inducing preservative to stabilise their products. Having sniffed, swilled and mostly spat our way round, we met... continued

Monday 21st May 2012

The mild, damp climate of the UK seems incongruous with growing a characteristically Mediterranean crop such as garlic, and with good reason. Unlike in France and Spain where months of unbroken, hot weather allows farmers to dry their garlic crops in open fields, attempting such a practice here would most... continued

Thursday 10th May 2012

My father stopped keeping sheep 50 years ago, claiming, “They just keep finding new ways to die”. After three years of growing veg in France amid hail, Botrytis fungus and deluge, I’m feeling the same about peppers. Last week a break in the weather finally allowed us to plant them... continued

Thursday 3rd May 2012

I am an omnivorous veg obsessive whose heart quickens at the sight of cabbages and chillies. However I have a pig-obsessed father, a butcher brother and two other cow-keeping siblings, so Riverford has always been a mixed if not predominantly livestock farm. Both here and on other farms like ours,... continued

Wednesday 25th April 2012

Here in Devon the reservoirs are full, the river is topping its banks, our fields are sodden and planting has ground to halt. The crops that are already in the ground are lapping it up, especially the leafy brassicas, but this should be our busiest time for planting. With a... continued

Thursday 19th April 2012

As the months of hearty roots and greens give way to our spring crops, the appearance of asparagus is the definitive symbol of change. For the last few weeks it has been coming from our grower Pepe in Spain, as a warm up before the UK season, which has happily... continued

Thursday 12th April 2012

With cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli, leeks and greens coming to an end in the fields and the stores rapidly emptying of roots, local veg is getting scarce. As there are still three or four weeks to go before we cut our first spring-planted lettuce or spinach, we are approaching the... continued

Wednesday 4th April 2012

While on my knees harvesting a particularly weed-ridden crop of spinach this morning, it occurred to me that a relatively small quantity of noxious chemical last autumn would have made the job a lot easier. I am not an organic dogmatist or a Luddite; good chemistry combined with sound ecological... continued

Tuesday 12th May 2015

When we measured our carbon footprint with Exeter University in 2007, I was horrified to find that our packaging makes up 10% of it. As the vegboxes account for a fair chunk (despite being made from 95% recycled materials that are 100% recyclable) getting the most out of them is... continued

Wednesday 29th April 2015

As the new grass pushes through, our dairy herds have been leaping and bucking their way onto spring pasture; definitely a highlight of our farming year. Their diet will now shift to the increasingly rich fresh grass, and you’ll be able to taste the difference in their milk over the... continued

Thursday 15th March 2012

Cauliflower is one of the veg we are most frequently asked for help with. The trick is to intensify the natural earthy taste and then amplify it with complementary flavours like Indian spices, egg, mustard and decent cheeses. To this end we’ve stopped boiling it in our Field Kitchen restaurant;... continued

Thursday 8th March 2012

In the 1980s, when I ploughed up the first and best of my father’s fields, I wasn’t sure what to grow so I tried just about everything. A fellow grower once said that if libraries stocked seed catalogues they would be filed under fiction; those photos can be very seductive... continued

Thursday 1st March 2012

As we approach the end of another growing year, the barns are starting to look empty and the fields bare. For the most part, both crops and customers have behaved according to plan so everything will be sold (bar the dodgy stuff, which the cows will enjoy). There are still... continued

Tuesday 5th May 2015

War Horse, Spielberg's World War One adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's tale of horse heroics, seems to have left half the nation shedding buckets of tears and the other half reaching for the bucket. My son and I were in the latter camp but I, rather to my annoyance and despite... continued

Thursday 23rd February 2012

It may be Fairtrade Fortnight, but here at Riverford we do our best to ensure everyone we work with gets treated fairly all of the time. Our bananas are grown by a co-operative of small scale farmers in the Dominican Republic, and in the same way that our co-op of... continued

Thursday 23rd February 2012

It may be Fairtrade Fortnight, but here at Riverford we do our best to ensure everyone we work with gets treated fairly all of the time. Our bananas are grown by a co-operative of small scale farmers in the Dominican Republic, and in the same way that our co-op of... continued

Thursday 9th February 2012

Every December, in the foothills of Mount Etna in Sicily, there is a group of farmers relishing the cold nights. While a sharp chill would alarm most fruit growers, concerned for the survival of their tender fruit, it’s a different story for growers of blood oranges. Along with the incredibly... continued

Thursday 2nd February 2012

Back in 2007, Sir Terry Leahy of Tesco (that well known eco-warrior), grabbed the headlines briefly by saying that Tesco would carbon label all their products. Last week they changed their mind, citing cost and complexity, plus difficulties in making the information meaningful to customers. Acting on the enthusiasm of... continued

Monday 30th January 2012

It's still warm, but growth around the farms has slowed down enough to give time for pruning fruit, planting some trees, tidying up and even thinking a bit about where to go from here. Most effort goes on trying to better what we currently do, through small improvements. Itís worth... continued

Friday 20th January 2012

We’ve had ten days of easterly winds, bringing us dry and bright days, some sharp frosts and finally a very welcome cessation of growth, perhaps giving us a chance to catch up. We have some wonderful winter crops but with many of them four to six weeks ahead of schedule,... continued

Thursday 5th January 2012

Down on the coast here in Devon a few gale-beaten and confused primroses are already in flower, along with the first daffodils; the snowdrops seem to have a more reliable clock though, and are holding back. The soil is so warm we we'd even consider planting a few early potatoes... continued

Wednesday 28th December 2011

I hope you are well-fed, well-rested and full of resolve to eat well and save the world in 2012. As well as all that, my resolution is not to be such a miserable bugger and be more upbeat about the farm, the business, all things organic and the world in... continued