Supporting family farmers

How can supermarkets afford to give away food in 2-for-1 deals? By making someone else pay for it – often a squeezed farmer.

As farmers ourselves, Riverford believe in long-term, trusting relationships with the growers who help us fill our organic veg boxes. We support over 50 small family farms, agreeing fair prices well in advance and always sticking to those prices.

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Mud, sweat & tears

Farmers invest huge amounts into producing our food – but most don’t know what price they will get when they come to sell it. They are squeezed into accepting low prices that don’t reflect the true cost of production, and can end up footing a crippling bill to fund the supermarkets’ discount deals.

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Farmers speak up

The Government’s Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GCSoP) survey allows UK farmers to anonymously reveal the unfair treatment they receive at the hands of supermarkets.

Percentage of farmers who experienced mistreatment in 2017-18:

%

“My trading with supermarkets came to an end shortly after one of their buyers told me, 'look sonny, when we whistle, you jump'.”

 

- Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson

Our experience

Organic farmer and Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson used to grow veg for major supermarkets. In 1987, fed up with “abuse and ritual humiliation”, he started his pioneering veg box scheme, delivering to a handful of friends from the back of his 2CV. Over 30 years later, our business is still founded on the concept of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s growing.

Buy one get none free

Discounts and offers are everywhere – from 2-for-1, to your first veg box free. For a while, Riverford was tempted down this path, thinking it was necessary to be competitive. But we were uncomfortable with the idea of the real cost of food not being reflected, as well as with offering new customers a deal not available to loyal ones.

In 2016, we stopped offering any discounts. You’ll always be charged a fair price for your Riverford veg – and the farmer will always receive a fair payment.

Supporting family farmers

What we can’t grow ourselves, we source from small-scale family farmers. Fair prices are set in stone – often over a year in advance – along with the commitment to buy. This way of doing business is virtually unheard of in our industry.

It’s stood the test of time: most of the local farmers who joined our cooperative when we set it up 20 years ago are still with us, and flourishing!

“I am convinced that most people, most of the time, are happy to pay a fair price: whatever it costs to make something competently, with due respect for people and the environment.”

 

- Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson

Meet some of our growers:

Ian & Alison Samuel

Not typical farmers, neither Alison nor Ian came from an agricultural background. Both were drawn to study agriculture at university; and after graduating, a tour of European farms convinced them that organic was the way to go. They returned to England in 1997, took on their Devon farm– and started working with Riverford shortly after.

Alongside fields of veg, Ian and Alison look after a small herd of cows. The whole system works in harmony; manure provides a natural fertiliser for the fields, and organic crops feed the cows in winter when they can’t graze. “We’ve always tried to look after the environmental side of things,” say Ian and Alison, who have also installed a windmill for green electricity. “It makes us proud to be doing what we do.”

Paul Ward

In the early ‘90s, Paul bought a house that included a few acres of mature but neglected Conference pear trees. Tending the orchard as a hobby awakened a passion for fruit farming – and Paul began to think about how this could be done more sustainably. “After growing conventionally for a few years, I became increasingly concerned about the use of broad-spectrum pesticides,” Paul told the Soil Association.

In 1994, Paul committed to a life of growing, buying his first fruit farm and setting about converting it to organic. It was a bit of a sea change from his previous life in construction! Today, Paul grows award-winning organic fruit across four sites in Kent. His organic apples were the first ever organic winners of the National Fruit Show’s coveted top prize, ‘Tastiest Apple’.

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Choose a fair deal for farmers. Choose Riverford.

When you choose a Riverford veg box (winner of The Observer’s Ethical Product of the Decade), you choose a fair deal for all.

Choose from a wide selection of seasonal boxes – and top up with organic dairy, drinks, store cupboard staples and more. Delivery is free; no need to be home.

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© 2019 Riverford Organic Farmers Ltd