reasons to be cheerful: two

Still cheerfully cheap

I undertook to devote my next three newsletters to reasons to be cheerful (about our boxes); one, they are better for you, two, better for the environment and three, better for our suppliers and staff. It is time to deal with the environment, but before that, a few more lines about why our boxes are better for you. A major European funded study by Newcastle University, comparing organic and non-organic agriculture, last week reported up to 40% more beneficial compounds in organic vegetable crops and up to 90% more in milk, with particularly high levels of vitamin C and minerals such as iron and zinc. More details on our website (Farm News).

So on to the environment. Several studies have demonstrated the greater biodiversity on organic farms. Most terrestrial food chains start underground. If you compare an organic soil farmed as part of a balanced rotation, to one intensively cropped with cereals... well, there is no comparison; the diversity of life forms can differ by a factor of ten or more. Added to that, organic food typically uses one third less energy to produce and avoids pollution of water courses with agrochemicals and fertilisers.

There is no doubt that by these direct measures, organic farming is better for the environment. But over 80% of energy is used after food leaves the farm, so what about our box scheme compared with other ways of getting food from farm to plate? There is a lot of seductive supermarket greenwash around; be a little sceptical and judge for yourself. Compare the packaging (we use a lot less to start with, around 70% is re-used, 90% made from recycled materials and 95% recyclable). Compare the energy used to get it to your door: no airfreight and, averaged over the year, 82% UK produce. The average distance our home-grown vegetables travel to your door is around a third of what it was when we sold through supermarkets. Most importantly, you do not have to get in your car; all the carbon emitted to get a delivery to your door from Riverford equates to driving a family car about 4 miles. We are not perfect, and we are still working to reduce our carbon, but I am pretty sure that Riverford compares very favourably with almost any other model of food distribution other than growing it yourself. More info on our carbon footprinting exercise with Exeter University on the website.

Carnival squash in the Fruit & Veg boxes

Our carnival squash are a bit smaller than we had hoped, making them fiddly to peel and chop. It