Riverford Organic Farm Biodiversity
Riverford was founded by farmer Guy Singh-Watson in Devon in 1987, where he started delivering organic vegetables to 30 local homes via what was one of the first veg box schemes.
Riverford now delivers around 70,000 organic veg boxes every week across the country to a loyal band of customers who share the company’s environmental and ethical ethos. It’s not just about sustainable food – Guy’s passion for ethical business led to him handing over the reins of Riverford to its staff and the company became employee owned in June 2018, ensuring its ethical values will be protected forever.
Biodiversity is thriving at Riverford’s Wash Farm
An ongoing survey, which has been carried out since 2021 has revealed that biodiversity is thriving at Wash Farm, the home of organic veg box company Riverford.
Notable findings from the survey to date, include the recording of 357 species of moth, including 42 species that have been identified on the Riverford site for the first time, such as the Pearly Underwing, which is uncommon In the UK.
Other significant species observed include the Grass snake, Coot, Little Grebe, Emerald Damselfly and the Cirl Bunting – the latter has been identified by the RSPB as the UK’s rarest resident farmland bird, with an estimated population of only 1000 pairs.
Riverford has recently, sewn a 1.5-acre plot with wild bird seed to provide food for the birds throughout the winter and to encourage them to breed.
Anna David, sustainability researcher at Riverford says, “We are delighted to see that biodiversity is thriving on the farm – we follow mixed, organic farming practices so were expecting to see some good results, but the recording of 357 different moth species has far exceeded our expectations.
“The confirmation of Cirl Buntings on the farm is another exciting development. What these surveys allow us to do is have a baseline, from here we can continue to survey each year and make sure that farmlands are as appealing to wildlife as they can be, and to encourage more to make our farm their home.
“In addition, our bat survey has also shown some great initial results – we have a very high population of the Greater Horseshoe bat, which wouldn’t be possible without organic grazing. Organic cows are not administered highly toxic wormers, which means their dung has thriving populations of dung Beetles, which the baby greater Horseshoe bat will feed on almost exclusively when they first start to fly.”
Dave Pakes, co-ordinating the survey by The Flying Trappers, on behalf of Devon Moth Group said “We were expecting to find around 300 species by the end of the year, which would have indicated healthy levels for the farm, so to have found more than that as quickly as we have, is a fantastic indicator of the health of Riverford’s farm. To give a comparison – the average healthy UK garden will annually have around 200 species of moths. Moths are significant indicators of biodiversity. As well as providing food for other species, they are important pollinators”
The biodiversity surveys have also noted several wetlands and watercourses that are valuable for biodiversity, including two large ponds and several areas of stream, as well as long-established woodlands on the Riverford site including Tor Hill Wood, Jacobs Wood and Squirrell Alley.
Riverford are now laying out a robust action plan to further enhance biodiversity at Wash Farm over the next few years, forming a key part of their commitment to Farming for the Future. This vision involves a farm management system, which creates and actively manages a range of high-quality wildlife habitats – along with healthy soils and watercourses – and creates habitat connectivity across the farm. Riverford are also upskilling their farm team in sustainability and biodiversity enhancement knowledge, hoping to lead the way and show other farms what is possible.
Cirl Buntings, Moths and Bats
Cirl Buntings – a nationally rare bird has been spotted on the farm and we are (this week) sowing a 1.5 acre plot of wild bird seed to provide food for them through the winter (and encourage them to breed). I am currently writing this story up to pitch this week so I can send over for you?
Moths – we have (so far) had over 300 species logged as part of our biodiversity surveys – we were hoping for this number by the end of the year, so to have this at the half way point is a very good indicator of the health of the Riverford wash farm, moths are excellent pollinators.
Bats – our Riverford co-owners (employees) are undertaking bat surveys. We have very good populations of bats on the farm, including the greater horse shoe, without organic grazing (of cattle) as part of our mixed farming practice we wouldn’t have these populations. Due to the fact that organic cattle aren’t fed highly toxic wormers, their manure contains dung beetles, which are the only source of food for baby bats! Dung beetles are also highly important for other reasons, including making tunnels for better irrigation in the fields.
Vintage Roots - Biodiversity and Organic Wine Making
About Vintage Roots
Vintage Roots Ltd was established to supply and promote the benefits of its organic wines and other organic drinks ranges. From Day 1 (1986) this Berkshire-based operation has only worked with wines that meet and exceed its firm and uncompromising standards, for wines of the highest authentic quality, produced and nurtured by low impact producers who proactively work towards sustaining and enriching their local environments.
Vintage Roots Ltd's ongoing quest to source the best available wines entails a fair amount of travel throughout the UK and further afield. They take their responsibility to source and import the very finest organic offerings from around the world very seriously.
Organic Wine Production
To make an organic wine, all agricultural ingredients used in the wine—like the grapes, sugar and alcohol—must be certified organic. Sadly, pesticides are a common feature of non-organic vine growing. However, with organic winemaking, no synthetic pesticides (ie sprays) can be used during wine production. This means that organic farms tend to have healthier soils with more biodiversity and nutrients—and grape vines, like all plants, need healthy soils.
Healthier soils also help with the end product: healthier vineyard equal healthy grapes and eventually wines that have super expressive terroir and character.
Vintage Roots Wines have a diverse portfolio of hundreds of certified organic drinks to pick from. A lot of their wines have received top awards over the years and many come from winegrowing areas prized for their quality and winemaking histories. Let’s raise a glass to all the organic wine and drink producers doing their part to bring us great products from vineyards with healthier soils and more diversity.
ABEL & COLE ‘S BEAUTIFUL ORGANIC BRITISH BLOOMS
About Abel & Cole
Since 1988, Abel & Cole believed that food has the power to help change the world. They on a mission to make shopping sustainably simple, putting people and our planet first every step of the way.
From supporting independent growers and makers to cutting carbon emissions, every Abel & Cole's organic box that lands on your doorstep makes a difference.
Organic flowers from six British growers
This year Abel & Cole are delighted to announce the expansion of their beautiful British Blooms - the only online delivery service offering organic flowers in the UK. the boxes now collect a collection of carefully extended stems from six British organic growers. The flowers are hand-harvested and grown without heated greenhouses or potentially harmful chemical inputs. Organic flower fields are beneficial for wildlife and free from artificial pesticides, allowing biodiversity to flourish.
The growers are: Organic Blooms, Clover Nursery, Wards Farm Flowers, EBM Helme, Ben Andrews and Kensons.
Sungleam organic pecan orchard
Sungleam grow and source the finest 100% organic nuts. Sungleam only sell single-origin nuts that they buy directly from farmers and co-operatives They know and trust.
SunGleam Organic Foods is a family business. They pioneered pecan production in South Africa and their farm has been certified 100% organic for 25 years. They founded SunGleam as a way to sell our home-grown organic pecans straight to our customers in the UK and EU.
All Sungleam products are certified organic. No chemicals, no artificial fertilisers.
Benefits of organic Sungleam orchards for wildlife
The key really is the system, rather than the crop. Sungleam farm pecan nuts in a certified organic and holistic system which includes multiple crops. Pecans are the primary commercial crop but also in the system are cover crops (legumes and grasses and sheep). The result is a system that restores and improves biodiversity above ground and below ground.
Above ground: insect and bird life is incredible. Below ground: organic matter and soil fauna are abundant. By planting pecan trees and cover crops in soil that had been managed under conventional conditions (essentially mined of nutrients and life) Sungleam can restore soil health, biodiversity, and wildlife.
Crazy Jack Organic food from across the globe
About Crazy Jack
Crazy Jack began over twenty years ago, with the belief that food should be grown as nature intended. Fast forward to now, these beliefs are stronger than ever, and they continue to produce a range of organic dried fruits, nuts and seeds… sourced from some of the finest organic farmers around the world.
Grown only as nature intended, each ingredient is wholesome, delicious and never contains preservatives – making the ideal option whether baking, snacking, cooking or even sprinkling on your breakfast! Supporting organic and Crazy Jack's mission, means you won’t only be eating delicious food, but you’ll also be caring for the planet and supporting wildlife.
Meet the Agouti: the master behind Brazil nuts
How do you eat Brazil nuts? Whether you snack on them, mix them into bakes or use as a salad topper, they are versatile nuts that have many tasty benefits – but have you ever stopped to wonder how Brazil nuts are grown?
Brazil nuts are actually edible seeds from the Brazil nut tree, and they can be eaten raw or blanched. The nuts grow inside a round, coconut-like shell, in orange-like segments that, when split open, reveal about 12-20 Brazil nuts. These coconut shells grow high in trees found in the Amazonian forests of Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador, and when ready to be harvested, will fall to the floor of the forest.
But it’s how these trees come to be, that shows the true magic behind a Brazil nut.
Meet the Agouti, a large rodent which is native to South America, and crucial to the growth of new Brazil nut trees.
The Agouti will harvest the ‘coconut shells’ from the forest floors, collecting them as they drop. Using their incredibly tough jaws, and chisel-sharp front teeth, the Agouti will gnaw open the hard outer pod which encases the seeds – giving them access to the individual seeds which they will then open to get to the nuts. The Agouti will then eat several nuts and hide some for later. It’s these hidden nuts which sometimes get forgotten, and then go on to grow into new trees! Thus, the Agouti plays an essential part in the seed dispersal and regeneration of the Brazil nut trees’ lifecycle.
To highlight, and celebrate, the importance of these little rodent, Crazy Jack (the home of organic dried fruits and nuts) have shared some of its favourite facts about the Agouti, for Organic September…
• Agouti are related to guinea pigs and look quite similar, but with longer legs
• They have short hairless tails and may grow to be up to 60cm in length, and 4kg in weight
• When feeding, Agoutis sit on their hind legs and hold food between their forepaws – much like a squirrel would do!
• They eat fallen fruit, leaves and roots, although may sometimes climb trees to eat green fruit – which they will then hoard in small buried stores!
• Agouti can live for as a long as twenty years, which is remarkably long for a rodent
And they are regarded the only species that can open Brazil nuts without tools, thanks to their strength and exceptionally sharp teeth.
So, the next time you take a bite of a Brazil nut, give a little thanks to nature and how it works in unison to provide us with this delicious nut. And just remember, if we could give the Agouti a voice, they’d ask us to choose organic, to not only protect them but to save their habitat also – as with no rainforest, there would be no Agouti, and no Agouti would mean no more Brazil nuts.
You can do your part for the planet by choosing organic, to not only help the Agouti, but the ladybirds, bees, worms, and butterflies too, which are just as important in helping to build a flourishing ecosystem.
Information and images credit: Riverford Farm, Abel & Cole, Vintage Roots, Sungleam Organic and Crazy Jack.