Pushback of the Week: February 5, 2024: Riverford Organic Farmers, UK

Source: Riverford Farmers

“What we’re doing to make sure our veg makes a positive impact; organic farming, employee ownership, pioneering packaging and more.” ~ Riverford Organic Farmers

Riverford Organic Farmers, a British company that home-delivers boxes of organic vegetables, recently sent an open letter to the CEOs of the UK’s “Big Six” supermarkets, expressing concern about the state of British farming. The letter was supported by the “Get Fair About Farming” e-petition, which gained significant public support and reached the required 100,000 signatures for parliamentary debate.

Riverford’s research reveals that almost half of British fruit and vegetable farmers fear going out of business within the next year, an alarming statistic symbolized by 49 protesting scarecrows positioned outside the Houses of Parliament during the cross-parliamentary debate. Using scarecrows as a stand-in served as a reminder that many farmers are hesitant to openly discuss their experiences with supermarket buying practices due to potential consequences.

Riverford founder and farmer Guy Singh-Watson has played a pivotal role in the growth and success of the organization over the past three decades. From humble beginnings, where Singh-Watson delivered organic vegetables to friends using a wheelbarrow, Riverford has become a national vegetable box scheme, serving around 50,000 customers every week. Despite the company’s expansion, Singh-Watson has maintained a deep involvement in the farming process and has earned immense respect within the organic farming community. He is a two-time winner of the BBC Radio 4 Farmer of the Year award, and Riverford’s vegetable boxes received the Ethical Product of the Decade award in 2015.

Singh-Watson’s unwavering dedication to making organic food accessible to all has been the driving force behind Riverford’s commitment to fairness and sustainability. In addition to his focus on organic farming, Singh-Watson also advocates for natural pest control methods, encouraging the presence of native ladybirds, lacewings, and wasps on his farm.

Rejecting the notion that profit should be the company’s sole objective, Singh-Watson took a significant step in 2018 by selling a majority stake of Riverford to its employees at a fraction of its value. By 2023, the company had transitioned to being 100% employee-owned. Despite this change, Singh-Watson remains actively involved in the company, aiming to demonstrate that business can be a positive force and that employee ownership will safeguard Riverford’s sustainable food production model and core values.

Riverford also publishes its own magazine, Wicked Leeks, “to inspire and inform positive change through original journalism,” which we recommend reading.

Singh-Watson and the team at Riverford deserve praise for their ongoing commitment to supplying organic and sustainable food, as well as their brave and inspirational advocacy for British farming.

Related:

Get Fair about Farming (Homepage)

Riverford Organic Farmers (Homepage)

Wicked Leeks (Homepage)

Half of Britain’s fruit and veg growers “may go out of business within a year”

Supermarkets act now: Get Fair About Farming (YouTube)

Get Fair About Farming goes to Parliament (YouTube)

Get Fair About Farming: Silence of the supermarkets (YouTube)

Farmers stage protest calling for protection from unfair treatment by supermarkets (Mirror)

Guy’s Revolution: Pesticides in agriculture; there is another way (YouTube)

Staff ownership ensures organic veg firm Riverford doesn’t forget its roots (The Guardian)

Veg box firm Riverford to be 100% staff-owned as founder sells stake for £10m (The Guardian)

Hofweb (Dutch organic food home delivery service)

Solawi – Network of Solidarische Landwirtschaft (Community-supported agriculture) in Germany

Related Solari Reports:

Pushback of the Week: January 15, 2024: The German Farmers

Movie of the Week: January 15, 2024: Nitrogen 2000: The Dutch Farmers’ Struggle

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