South Devon Organic Producers Co-Operative

South Devon Organic Producers LTD, Devon

STARTED via a discussion in a pub in 1997, almost 20 years later, South Devon Organic Producers Co-operative is still going strong.

Providing vegetables and fresh produce for Riverford Organic, it makes the most of a part of the country – south Devon – not renowned for its ability to grow such crops.

With a board of directors and management structure made up of farmers, it has nine co-operative farmer members and is looking to bring new blood to the group.

Caroline Westacott, general manager of South Devon Organic Producers Co-operative, says: “It all started with 10-12 farmers local to Riverford Organic founder Guy Watson, who wanted to make this area a centre for organic vegetables.

“Some farmers were growing vegetables already and were established in the organic system, but some had to convert, so it was a real challenge.

“The key now is about having people on board who want to be involved and help drive the business forward. All growers get on well together and this is key for the future of the organisation.”

With a few members having retired and others taking a break from organic production, the co-operative is looking to bring in new growers who are committed to the organic ethos.

With a guaranteed route to market via Riverford and price locked in until spring 2018, the arrangement gives growers certainty and the ability to plan going forward.

With soil testing done centrally and a machinery ring in place for them to utilise, there is an emphasis on making the most of shared assets.

Caroline says: “It is always about working together and having the flexibility to adapt. This year, a lot

of the vegetables have come early because of weather conditions, which has presented challenges for procurement staff, but it is about managing situations such as this.”