Monday 19 June 2023

Organic? It can be done

Michael Walker at [leftie] Novara Media took a cheap shot at the management of Riverford Organic Farms and had to apologise.

The Watson family were first against the wall when the revolution comes sugar farmers in the West Indies. As a young chap after WWII, the scion John Watson a) returned to England to read Ag at Cambridge b) in 1951, tendered for a degraded 120 acre farm in Devon owned by the Church Commissioners. Being an Establishment farmer, JW lurried on the nitrates and other chemicals [he was sponsored by ICI!] to maximize 'productivity' . . . and bugger the butterflies. The scion's scion Guy Singh-Watson took the reins about 40 years ago and drove the farm in a different - organic - direction; to the bemusement, not to say annoyance, of the neighbours. Organic farms tend to look scruffy especially if you regard hay-rattle Rhinanthus minor as a weed rather than desirable biodiversity. 

Young Guy started small, with himself and a wheelbarrow, delivering fresh dug unwashed veggies to 30 friends and neighbours. Right now Riverford distributes 50,000 weekly veg boxes from four hub farms in England generating a turn-over North of £100 million a year. In 2018, GSW shifted 76% of the firm's assets to a worker's co-op. As an exit strategy for a venture capitalist, this was a massive fail because the owner accepted as 'consideration' only ¼ of the market valuation. It was still a lorra money: maybe 5x more than I earned in 40 years at the academic coal-face. Guy is currently cashing in his final 23% holding - for £10million. Vid [3m]. He's well-known for his unshouty 'rants' exposing the false premises of Big Ag.

I think it's fair to claim, as Riverford does, that they are balancing the ethical and financial demands of its workers, its customers, its suppliers and its biota . . . and the planet, so that everyone wins. That's what a bargain should be: all parties walk away from the deal feeling like they are the winner.

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