Friday mornings are a bit exciting in my house; it’s Riverford delivery day. At around 9.30am a friendly driver drops off the weekly box (hiding it behind the recycling bin if no-one’s home) packed with a delicious selection of organic fruit and vegetables. And, rather helpfully, a leaflet detailing different ways to cook some of the more unusual contents.
I decided to find out more about the faces behind the vegetables and met up with Eleanor Fletcher who runs the York & East Riding Riverford Franchise.
Hello Eleanor! Can you tell us about how you came to run the local Riverford delivery scheme?
Hi! Yes, well I was born in York and grew up in Helmsley before life took me to London where I worked in publishing. As a family, we’d planned on moving back to York at some point anyway, then one day I spotted the York Riverford franchise was available. We’d been Riverford customers for many years and I was familiar with the products and really liked the ethos of the company, so I took the plunge and applied.
We began the new York franchise in August 2018 – it really was like jumping on a galloping horse! There used to be 2 franchises in Yorkshire but these were combined into one when I took over. We now cover York and East Riding and over to the west as far as Pontefract and Castleford.
Wow, that is a huge area to cover! I’m guessing the food isn’t all grown up here in Yorkshire; where does it come from?
Riverford has 3 main farms in the UK; one fairly locally in Northallerton, one in Cambridgeshire, and one near Totnes in Devon. We grow different produce at each farm according to what suits the soil and climate. For example Yorkshire’s good for potatoes and brassicas, Cambridgeshire for onions, leeks and lots of salads in the sandy soil, while Totnes has a milder climate suited to tomatoes and winter salad leaves which wouldn’t survive well up here in the North.
All our meat comes from the Riverford butchery in Devon. Dairy products are supplied by Acorn Dairies up near Barnard Castle and eggs from a farm in County Durham.
Is all Riverford produce UK grown?
No, we use some French farms in the Vendee, and a co-operative of Spanish farms too. All our produce is land freighted though, we never air freight. And thanks to extensive research we’ve discovered that a tomato grown in Southern Spain and land freighted to the UK has a lower carbon footprint than one grown in a heated greenhouse here in England.
One of the common objections about organic produce is that it’s expensive and hard to get hold of. That’s often the case in supermarkets but your boxes pretty much prove that to be wrong! Why do think customers choose Riverford?
I think they choose us for a variety of reasons. Concerns about intensive farming methods and pesticides is a big driver for a lot of customers. They appreciate the higher welfare standards of organic farms – for both the animals and staff – and love the freshness of our products. Our usual turnaround time from farm to doorstep is 36-48 hours. We don’t leave our veg hanging around in distribution centres for days and weeks, which is why it lasts longer and tastes so fresh.
Customers recognise how organic farming is preserving and enriching the soil and caring for wildlife. Plastic is a really big issue too. Our boxes use 77% less plastic compared to the supermarket equivalents of our products – that’s a huge difference. We reuse the cardboard delivery boxes time and time again, and some of our smaller cardboard boxes can be composted on a household compost heap.
As well as running the delivery scheme you also run cooking workshops showing people how to use the produce in the boxes. What are your favourite veggies and how do you serve them?
That is a tough question! *thinks for a moment* Ok, I’m going to answer it by seasons…
In winter I love the deep savoury flavour of celeriac in soups, roasted, or as celeriac mash.
Autumn has to be cime di rapa which is a bit like spinach, but with the pepperyness of rocket.
Then in spring and summer I love using the bunched carrots. They’re thinner and less robust than winter carrots but perfect for roasting whole and using the carrot leaves in pesto instead of basil.
Thank you so much Eleanor!
To find out more about Eleanor’s delivery scheme and cookery workshops hop over to;
Enjoy ‘Wicked Leeks’ the Riverford online magazine packed with info and tips about organic farming, sustainability, eating organic on a budget and more at https://wickedleeks.riverford.co.uk/
Do you grow your own organic veggies?
Have you got a tried and trusted veg box delivery scheme near you?
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