Riverford to become employee-owned firm

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Food box business Riverford Organic Farmers has announced it will become entirely employee-owned by next year.

The North Yorkshire-based firm is celebrating two milestones this month as it marks its 10th anniversary of farming in Yorkshire and 30 years of farming in the UK.

Last year it reported a group turnover of £51.9m and it employs 32 staff and 11 franchisees in the region.

Riverford’s northern farm, Home Farm at Newby Wiske, near Northallerton, is one of four Riverford farms countrywide which together produce and deliver the company’s veg boxes to more than 47,000 homes each week.

Peter Richardson’s family has farmed at Newby Wiske for three generations, converting the farm to organic in 1996 and setting up the veg box scheme with Riverford in 2007.

The farm is supported by other local organic farmers to offer a wide range and variety of produce to Riverford’s customers throughout Yorkshire and the North.

Riverford Organic Farmers was founded by farmer Guy Watson in Devon in 1987.

Mr Watson has twice been voted BBC Farmer of the Year and this year was awarded Best Organic Farmer of the Year at the Soil Association’s The Best of Organic Market Awards. The Observer named the Riverford veg box as Ethical Product of the Decade.

He said: “Despite our impressive growth over the last 30 years, we’re not here for profit. I started the business to produce something useful to the world, so to protect our model of sustainable large-scale food production, the staff will soon own the majority instead.

“It’s an exciting time and a big change. Employee ownership will not guarantee enlightened management, devolved decision making and more innovation but we are hoping, with thought, coaching, nudging and the normal navel gazing, it will be the catalyst for an accelerated transition in that direction.