Thank You Riverford Fruit & Veg Boxes - Continuing Our Support Of Organic Produce In UK

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Thursday 14 July 2016

Thank You Riverford Fruit & Veg Boxes - Continuing Our Support Of Organic Produce In UK

Since our time WOOFing on an organic farm in the French Alps last Autumn, we gained a really good appreciation and understanding of just what is involved in producing organic vegetables.  After reading up on current research, we'd been trying to support organic for some years but it wasn't really until the time on the farm that we made our commitment to buying Organic (or 'Bio' as they say in Europe) where possible.  When we came back to the UK, and particularly Durham, we were slightly concerned about our options. But we've found a solution.... the brilliant Riverford vege box scheme and it has been serving us really well in both Durham and now while we are living in Aylesbury too.  As we prepared to leave for our hiking tour, we've just received our last Riverford order (we will be pausing our orders) which will have to last us until we leave early next week.  So we wanted to say a big thank you to the whole team - the growers, the behind-the-scenes organisers, customer support and the delivery teams, particularly the very friendly Andy who looks after the Durham area who got us all set up.
Over the past 3 months, we've enjoyed an array of veggies and fruit and have been particularly impressed by the greens offered, the freshness of the produce and the ease of the ordering system.  It's delivered straight to the door, it's all organic and 80% of the produce offered is home-grown - and what is imported isn't by airfreight.  So once again a big THANK YOU to the RIVERFORD'S TEAM.

On this blog, we briefly touched upon at times our switch and commitment to eating a wholefoods plant based diet.  We hope to go into a bit more detail about why in the future.  The switch over, which included thinking about buying organic, began before we left on our European adventures in 2014.  We'd been interested by the research conducted by Dan's boss at Newcastle University, in the SAGE department.  He was heading up some of the most current research showing their were significant differences in vitamin and mineral levels of organic compared to non-organic foods.  We looked into buying more organic at the time and someone had mentioned Riverford to us then but in all honesty we were still too focused on budget and price and too busy to look into it properly and consider the value of quality.  

When we left the UK in 2014 and after Dan's health scare, we had more time and became very interested in reading health and nutrition books and research papers.  We'd also had the opportunity very early on in our trip to learn more about the differences in the farming methods when we got to visit the organic producer in Holland in June 2014.  We started to visit more and more 'Bio' (organic) supermarkets and overtime the majority of our food became organic sourced.  But it was really our time on the farm last year that gave us the appreciation of just how much work and consideration goes into organic farming.  There was something really special about the opportunity to have access to just picked seasonal organic produce that you'd been part of producing (Dan wrote a little something called Soil to Stomach before the farm experience which expressed how we were feeling last summer).  Our time on the farm and the people we met from GRAB (the farm was involved in organic this French organic research and development programme) renewed our motivation and commitment as we were able to reflect on the food changes we've made and the benefits to our health and our environment.  The experience was in stark contrast to the mixed and uncomfortable feelings we experienced the previous December during our stay in Cabo de Gata where we saw first hand the industrial scale production of vegetables in massive seas of plastic growing tents on the Spanish Southern Coast.  Instead of just reading about it in books or newspapers, we saw first hand the detrimental cost to the environment and the living conditions of the workers (we hope to share some of these reflections in future).

Compared to other European countries we'd visited like France, Germany, Belgium, Holland etc, Britain has far less independent or co-operative organic supermarkets groups, particularly those that stock fresh supplies.  There are also far less organic or weekly farmers markets.  On the positive side however, all the big UK supermarkets now have increasing numbers of organic options but it is still limited, in particular when it comes to fresh greens.  We also wanted to try and support more local options as as opposed to trucking foods from Spain or beyond.

So it was brilliant to be reminded of Riverford.  As soon as we got back to Durham, I got online and set up our first order to arrive later that week.  The very friendly Andy, who looks after deliveries in Durham, gave me a call back and took the time to explain everything and got us set up.  For almost 4 months we've been very happily kept fed by our organic veggie boxes.

The website and online ordering has been really easy to navigate and use each week.  In addition to ordering a regular box, of which there are many options to suit different needs, we've liked the fact that we could also top this up by ordering specific individual items as well as other organic non-perishable produce from their 'farm shop' section.  (What I also like, is that on the website it states clearly which country something is coming from).  We still choose to continue ordering a box as well as our own shopping list because it's been great getting to try new things which we might otherwise not have ordered ourselves.

Thank you Andy!
The fruits and vegetables, particularly the greens have been great and really fresh when they've arrived.  The packaging is reduced and almost all of it is recyclable.  

The customer service has been excellent and very friendly, especially when I need move the orders to Aylesbury.  Andy was really friendly each week and we enjoyed our chats with him.  These past few weeks we've said hello to Russel delivering our orders.

Small Salad Box
Although we'll be pausing our order while we're abroad, we're excited to know that as soon as we're back we don't need to think about it and know straightaway we can get our order restarted.   We've been encouraged that mum and dad wanted to set up a weekly small regular salad box delivery and without pushing the issue at all but just seeing the quality of our deliveries, a couple of other friends have said that once they are more settled after the summer holidays they will also try out the scheme.    

We've also really enjoyed reading the Riverford founder, Guy Watson's weekly updates over the past 4 months (which are also post to the Riverford Blog).

"The Riverford box scheme began when Guy Watson started delivering vegetables locally to 30 friends in Devon. We now deliver around 47,000 boxes a week to homes around the UK from our regional farms." Started in 1993, some 23 years later Riverfords have delivered over 30 million veg boxes.

This week's newsletter (w/c 11th July 2016) was entitled: "A UK-only box; but will anyone buy it?' It informed me that in the beginning the boxes were sourced from entirely homegrown produce but now that importation transportation has improved, 20% of their produce does come from their French farm and a small grower group in Spain which allows they to get a balance between principles and customer demand (this way it still doesn't involve heated glasshouse production methods).  But due to popular demand they will be soon be introducing a UK-only box so although we won't be in the UK over the next few months, we wish them lots of luck with this launch.  

The boxes in our opinion offer really good value for money.  When you order some individual items they may cost a little more than in the supermarket, but you are getting it delivered straight to your door and access to a variety of organic produce the supermarket just doesn't offer.  And whilst I won't go into the benefits, the research or our opinion too much here, the consensus is that organic produce does offer a much higher nutritional content.  So it might appear to cost more from the shelf price but if you need to eat 3-4x as much of something to get the same amount of vitamins and minerals, it really is actually offering far greater value for money..... and tastes far better in our opinion :-)

So once again we wanted to say a big THANK YOU to the work of all the Riverford team.  We're really grateful for all their hard work, their vision and commitment to bringing fresh organic vege boxes to thousands of UK homes each week.  It's been really wonderful that back in the UK we've been able to keep up our commitment to sourcing where possible mostly local and organic produce.    THANK YOU.


(....... and no we've not been paid to write this!)

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