Guy Watson, founder of Riverford Organic Foods, has been named Farmer of the Year at the BBC’s Food and Farming Awards ceremony, which was held at the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham at the end of November.
It was his dedication, passion and innovative, inspirational approach to running a sustainable business that led to Guy’s award. He was specifically commended for rising to the challenge of sustainable intensification, which involves producing more food with fewer resources.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to receive this award,” said Guy. “From the outset my aim has been to produce organic food with flavour, look after my team, suppliers and the land, and encourage people to eat seasonally. Twenty-five years on, Riverford has shown that all this is possible.”
Guy has taken what started as a single-farm operation delivering organic vegetables direct from farm to customer to just 30 households in Devon, to a national franchise business supplying 40,000 homes each week with vegetables, fruit, dairy products, meat, bread and a baked range through its network of sister farms.
The network’s franchisees have already seen the benefit locally that such a prestigious award brings with it. Poole-based Gerard Maguire said: “A lot of my customers have been emailing me and congratulating Riverford, which is great. Guy winning the award has filtered down in a positive way to the whole franchise network.
“This is the ultimate award pertaining to farming, and the cherry on the cake for Guy. The award adds a lot of credence to what we do. It all goes back to the fact that the food goes from the farm to the customer with no middleman.”
Adam Henson, BBC presenter, fellow farmer and judge on the day, added: “We wanted to find someone who had a good business model that was very sustainable. Guy ticks all the boxes, so that was our reason for our choice. He has taken Riverford from a concept to a real business.”