47,000 boxes and counting
Riverford Organic – RSPCA Good Business Independent Food Retailer Award Winner 2011
Guy Watson started growing organic vegetables in 1986 on his family farm in Devon and set up the vegbox scheme in 1993, delivering to 20 local friends and families.
As demand grew, the challenge was to find a way of embracing it while sticking to what the vegbox scheme was all about – local growing and employment and a friendly, personal service. The solution was finding other farmers who shared the ethos. Now Riverford Organic has four regional farms, each with a group of local farmers who grow, pack and deliver around 47,000 vegboxes each week.
In total the farms employ around 400 people and since 2005 Riverford Organic has also supplied customers with higher welfare organic meat, through the Riverford Meatbox Company which was founded by Guy’s brother Ben Watson. In autumn 2010, the Riverford Meatbox Company became part of Riverford Organic.
“Put simply, we aim to sell flavoursome, fresh, ethically-produced food, whilst giving a fair deal to farmers, animals, customers, staff and the environment,” says Riverford’s Rachel Lovell. “This means not going for easy answers - which are nearly always the ones that would be better from a marketing point of view - but looking for an informed and balanced solution to the many dilemmas we are faced with in farming and food production.
“We believe that the best things in life are shared, and food produced to high ethical standards should not be elitist, but available to everyone. Our meatboxes were designed to provide people with their weekly meat needs from small-scale organic farmers with high animal welfare standards. We aim for the lowest miles achievable from the farm to the abbattoir, with all meat handled in one place in a totally transparent operation, with minimum processing and zero abusive practice at all stages.
“We also aim to change people's attitude to meat: let it be better quality but eaten less often, yet without impacting dining pleasure, as highlighted in our recent 'meat and ten veg' campaign.
Roast Pork Belly
Belly pork is a really flavoursome cut of meat. It needs to be cooked for a long time because of the amount of fat, but this will result in very tender meat and good crackling. It’s important to score the skin – you can ask your butcher to do this for you – as it helps the crackling form.
Serves 6, Prep 30 mins, Cooking time 3-4 hours
1–1.5kg piece of Freedom Food pork belly, scored
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
2 onions, halved
1 carrot, roughly chopped
2 leeks, well washed and roughly chopped
500ml chicken stock
2 apples, peeled and finely chopped
Rub salt into the skin of the pork belly. Leave for about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.
Wipe away any moisture from the pork skin, rub with the oil and sprinkle
with more salt and the crushed fennel seeds. Place the onions, carrot and
leeks in a roasting tray.
Sit the pork belly on top of the vegetables and place in the hot oven for about
20 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 140°C/Gas Mark 1 and
cook for 3–3½ hours, or until tender. Remove to a warm place to rest.
Add 200ml boiling water to the roasting tin and scrape away any meat juices
on the bottom. Push all the juices and the vegetables through a sieve into
a pan. Add the cider and stock and reduce by about half, until starting to
thicken. Add the chopped apples and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Serve with the sliced pork.
“We also aim to change people's attitude to meat: let it be better quality but eaten less often…” – Rachel Lovell, Riverford Organic