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 over 60 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, Riverford is a collection of three connected businesses – Riverford Organic Dairy, Riverford Organic and Riverford Farm Shops. Each business operates on the Riverford land and all the Watson children are actively involved. Oliver Watson runs the Farm and Dairy, Louise is on the Farm, Ben runs the Farm Shops, www.riverfordfarmshop.co.uk Guy and Rachel run Riverford Organic and it’s nationwide veg box scheme www.riverford.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 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. The sun shines a fair bit (by English standards), rain comes in abundance and the temperature is mild so our pastures grow lush and tall and our cows can be pasturefed for much of the year.
The wildlife at Riverford Dairy – the birds, bees, butterflies, hedgehogs, hares and mice that live in the trees, hedgerows and meadows– 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 co-owned and run by Oliver Watson. Oliver has decades of experience as an organic farmer. His expertise in care and management of the land and the herd at Riverford is exceptional. Co-owners Tony, Fiona & Robert run the production facility at the Dairy, manufacturing our range of milks, cheeses, creams and butters.
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: