Pioneering business Riverford Organic Farmers celebrates two milestones this month – its 10th anniversary of farming in Yorkshire and 30 years of farming in the UK.
The award-winning company, which reported a group turnover of £51.9m last year, has also announced that it will become employee-owned by 2018.
Riverford’s northern farm, Home Farm at Newby Wiske, near Northallerton, employs 32 staff and 11 franchisees in the region. It is one of four Riverford farms countrywide which together produce and deliver the company’s iconic veg boxes to more than 47,000 homes each week.
Peter Richardson’s family has farmed at Home Farm/Newby Wiske for three generations, converting the farm to organic in 1996 and setting up the veg box scheme with Riverford in 2007. The farm is supported by other local organic farmers to offer a wide range and variety of produce to Riverford’s customers throughout Yorkshire and the North.
Now a nationwide network of farmers and veg teams with the business motto of ‘good food, good farming, good business’, Riverford Organic Farmers was founded by farmer Guy Watson in Devon in 1987.
Guy has twice been voted BBC Farmer of the Year and this year was awarded Best Organic Farmer of the Year and Organic Market Innovator of the Year at the Soil Association’s The Best of Organic Market Awards. The Observer named the Riverford veg box as Ethical Product of the Decade.
He said: “We choose the varieties we grow for flavour rather than yield or cosmetic perfection and think our veg is so good it deserves to be shouted about.
“Despite our impressive growth over the last 30 years, we’re not here for profit; I have had dozens of offers to buy out the business, but will never do so and instead it will become employee owned by 2018.
“I started the business to produce something useful to the world, so to protect our model of sustainable large-scale food production, the staff will soon own the majority instead.
“It’s an exciting time and a big change. Employee ownership will not guarantee enlightened management, devolved decision making and more innovation but we are hoping, with thought, coaching, nudging and the normal navel gazing, it will be the catalyst for an accelerated transition in that direction.”