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Riverford organic vegetable box founder Guy Watson named Britain's farmer of year

By Herald Express  |  Posted: December 10, 2012

accolade: Country File presenter Adam Henson (left) presents the BBC Farmer of the Year Award 2012 to Riverford's Guy Watson Paul Gilroy

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GUY Watson has been named as Britain's Farmer of the Year.

The Riverford founder won the award at the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham.

He has built the company from a one-man band, delivering 30 boxes of home grown veg, to an organic giant delivering 40,000 boxes a week across the country. The self-confessed 'vegetable nerd' was specifically commended for rising to the challenge of sustainable intensification while remaining an organic producer, producing more food using fewer resources.

Guy said: "From the outset, my aim has been to produce organic food with flavour, look after my team, my suppliers and the land, and encourage people to eat seasonally.

"Twenty five years on, Riverford has shown that all this is possible."

Though the success of Riverford as a business has spread well beyond Devon, today including farms in France and Spain, its farming heart remains in the South Hams.

Guy returned to the family farm near Totnes to start growing organic vegetables.

His father was an unconventional farmer who was keen to supply local food to local people and his mother an outstandingly inventive cook.

With his own forceful and enterprising personality, Guy was destined to be a pioneer.

He rejected the supermarket distribution route and looked for a way to get his veg fresh from the field direct to the customer, long before veg boxes became popular.

He attributes the success of the business — which now delivers to more than 40,000 homes each week — to an 'obsession with flavour, a real focus on customers and an unbelievably hard-working and loyal team', most of them based in South Devon.

Guy said: "Local people have hugely contributed to Riverford's success.

"In the early days, to get immediate feedback on their doorstep proved invaluable and I soon learnt I needed to expand the range.

"It also helped being able to learn from mistakes on a small scale before expanding.

"I think there is a genuine interest from the public for local produce and this has enabled South Devon to become a fertile ground for food producers."

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