time to think, dream + try something new

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 spending some time trying something new.

Last weekend I was walking around the farm with a friend and came upon a stack of logs with holes drilled in both ends. I got excited thinking, unbeknown to me, that one of my staff was experimenting with Shiitake mushrooms. It turns out they are shelters for solitary bees, which makes me equally happy. Riverford is littered with crazy, mostly defunct inventions and remnants of hair-brained schemes. At least 90% don't work but without creativity, innovation and a desire to try new things, life would be dull and the demise of a business is inevitable.

The first time we sold Brussels sprouts on the stalk (yes Iím claiming that one) or wet garlic (that too) or wild garlic, it was considered odd, as were rocket, romanesco and celeriac not so long ago. Where do new ideas come from when a business is 95% about being sensible and following proven, established systems? Thankfully Riverford has the influence of numerous creative types among our staff, like Raph with his Orgone Generators focusing positive energy in our fields through coils and aluminium encrusted resin; sounds wacky to me but so did vegboxes 18 years ago. This year we will try multi-coloured sweetcorn, tomatillos, cape gooseberries and a few other things, but I think we could be going further.

There is an evolutionary theory that radical step change happens on the fringes, away from the mainstream, in isolated groups experiencing different conditions. I reckon the same is true of farming and business in general; it's the freaks on the fringes that really change things. Over 50% of our customers grow some of their own vegetables. I don't want to call any of you freaks, but if you have ideas about crops or varieties that you think we should be trialling, please let us know. For any that we adopt there is the prize of a meal in the Field Kitchen and a tour with myself or Penny, our resident expert gardener.

Guy Watson