In organic food and farming circles, Riverford and the Watson family name are synonymous with ethical business, organic and natural foods and sustainable, organic farming.
John Watson started farming at Riverford almost 70 years ago. He and his wife Gillian had five children who were raised on the farm and have grown to appreciate its stunning environment and the opportunities to farm according to traditional and holistic values.
Today, the next generation of Watsons are all actively involved in separate businesses based on the farm:
Oliver has decades of experience as a farmer. He and Louise run the dairy herd. Oliver oversees management of the land and he is also Director of the Riverford Dairy manufacturing operation.
Guy and Rachel run an organic veg box scheme delivering nationally, Riverford Organic Farmers riverford.co.uk.
Ben runs Ben’s Farm Shops and adopts a slightly different approach, selling good food to local people, much of it from the farm, all of it good, but not all certified organic bensfarmshop.co.uk.
John Watson began dairy farming on the land at Riverford in 1951 after graduating from Cambridge University with a degree in Agriculture. The Second World War had just ended and food security was a major issue in Britain. Rationing was still in place and the British government encouraged farmers to increase production by using heavy nitrogen fertilisers to support high levels of food productivity. John became part of an ICI scheme to demonstrate the power of fertilisers only to find that the health of his cows and the condition of his land soon deteriorated.
He researched alternative systems, stopped using chemical fertilisers and began adopting sustainable organic farming methods. The Watson family could be regarded as pioneers in the organic farming movement and the farm has now been certified organic for 30 years.
The Dairy lies amidst Riverford’s 350 hectares of organic land in stunning South Devon. The topography and climate are ideal for dairying. Our cows graze free-range for most of the year on Riverford pastures, spending the worst weeks of the winter in a purpose-built open barn.
The wildlife at Riverford Dairy – the birds, bees, butterflies, hedgehogs, hares and mice that live in the meadows, hedgerows and trees – are all protected as part of our organic farming commitment to manage natural habitats.
We even have a thriving colony of rare Horseshoe Bats that love the outbuildings, pastureland and tall hedgerows on the farm.
The Dairy is a small business processing around 35,000 litres of milk a week. Two thirds is made into liquid milk and the rest goes into our range of cheeses, creams, yogurts and butter. Julia and Fiona run the dairy production facility, managing a team of around 15 people who are dedicated to making the top-quality range and to serving our customers.
Our land and our products are both certified organic by the Soil Association, a charity that campaigns for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. The Soil Association recognises that there is a direct connection between our health and the way in which the food we eat is produced.
Any product sold in the UK that claims to be organic must have organic certification. And that means adhering to rigorous farming, animal husbandry and product standards that are checked every year by the Soil Association.
Here’s a brief summary of standards and practices: