Riverford, a family farm in Devon's Dart valley, is home to one of the UK's best-loved vegetable box schemes. Guy Watson started growing organic vegetables in 1987 on a corner of the family farm, with a wheelbarrow and a borrowed tractor. His pioneering box scheme now sends out around 45,000 boxes a week to a loyal band of customers who share his commitment to fresh, seasonal food, produced with a respect for the customer, staff, farmers and the environment. His determination to keep things local as the business grew led to the spawning of sister farms in Hampshire, Cambridgeshire and Yorkshire. By linking up with brothers Ben (meat) and Oliver (dairy), we are able to deliver our customers a large chunk of their weekly shop. From the start, the business has been committed to minimising its environmental impact, from the way food is grown through to how it is packed and delivered. Over recent years, we have been working to give this respect for the environment a more rigorous foundation.
about Riverford's sustainable development project
For years we did what we assumed to be the right thing for the environment, often charging into expensive projects without enough research. The more questions we asked the more we realised that the answers were far from obvious. To reduce our environmental impacts we must first understand and evaluate the impact of current activities and patiently research the alternatives.
the debate on environmental issues is moving fast but is too often guided by the need to gain marketing advantage rather than deliver genuine benefit. As a result too much effort, in both business and government, is put into doing what customers and voters expect and not enough into rigorously researched long term solutions.
Our need for well researched and authoritative answers to guide our plans for the future led to a two year collaborative project with The University of Exeter and the DTI under the knowledge transfer partnership program. The project has been running since late 2006.
We have created this website to present the results of this investigation into Riverford’s environmental impact - to explain the decisions we have made, as a source of information for others doing similar projects and perhaps to trigger debate in areas where our findings run contrary to popularly held views.