Riverford Wicked Leeks

planning & personality

With the roots all safely in store, we are now settling into our winter routine of pulling leeks, cutting cauliflower, cabbage and kale, grading the roots and, of course, packing all those boxes. It is also time for us to review the year and plan the next, to figure out what worked, what didn’t, how we could improve, to schedule crop and variety trials and occasionally accept defeat where we have persistently failed. We have planned your box contents right up to April 2015 and, working back through a multitude of spreadsheets, agreed the cropping programmes and prices with our growers. This planning is meticulous, and despite the vagaries of the weather and occasional mechanical and human error, we get remarkably close to our aims. The fields are cleared, the boxes are filled and the waste is minimal. This is the benefit of over 25 years of accumulated experience, combined with removing myself from the process. My more intuitive and impetuous approach served us well for a while, but it was time for the more retentive ‘completer finishers’ to take the business to the next stage.


Planning so far ahead is the only way to provide the security our growers need while keeping the boxes affordable - by removing waste, packaging, transport, administration and risk. The downside is that we are less responsive to your comments, needs and desires. With planned improvements for 2014 this should change, but we will never be Ocado or Tesco.


There is no ducking the fact that it takes over a year to plan, plant, harvest and sell most vegetables, three or four years to produce a steak and five years to produce an apple. It is not that we don’t listen to you, but if we are to be true to our promises to growers it takes a while to change course. As such I sometimes think that fair, ethical, environmentally sensible farming and trade is incompatible with free market capitalism. Stalin had his five-year plans but they didn’t work very well either. I like to think our approach is more enlightened than both of the above, but for now it does rely on you not expressing your individuality through the precise mixture of your salad leaves.