About Us

ETHOS AND HISTORY

The Watson family has farmed the 350 hectare Riverford Farm for over 60 years, more than thirty of which have been spent working to bring back the taste and quality of traditional foods through the farm shops with their butchery, fresh vegetables, grocery and deli counters, the organic vegetable box business and the dairy. All are separate businesses but have much in common. As well as name (until recently) and location, a shared belief in quality, unadulterated, fresh food and good farming makes Ben’s Farm Shops and Riverford stand for most things good in the world of food and farming. All five children, Louise (Farm), Ben (Shop), Oliver (Farm and Dairy) and Guy and Rachel (Organic Vegetable Boxes) are actively involved in the farm or its associated businesses. The great patriarch, John Watson, though supposedly long retired, is still actively involved with all things Riverford.

Thirty years ago, organic, local and sustainable were mere seeds in the public’s mind. People just didn’t get it when, in 1983, Ben started making sausages and bacon from the farms pigs. From the beginning, we concentrated on quality, value, additive free, unadulterated and simple food production, low food miles, fair trade etc. Since then nothing has changed. If something is certified organic, so much the better, but it must also satisfy other criteria. Often the magic word ‘organic’ is not enough. For example we try not to sell over-processed, production line, organic food but we do sell spanking fresh, non-organic vegetables from a grower just down the road. What we like most is to produce foods ourselves from start to finish – from farm to table, our way. . Food should tell a story and, because we know what it is, we can tell you. Food from the farm, not the factory; there is an alternative to large scale monoculture, long production lines and mega supermarkets. And it doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Local estate agents told us that it wasn’t unusual for people to ask for houses nearby so we thought we had better open another shop elsewhere! Hence you will find us in Totnes, on the high street and at Ben’s Wine and Tapas, and at shop at Yealmpton (six miles east of Plymouth).

KITCHEN

“Simple but amazingly good’ – now it’s official. Old favourites, Homity Pies and Pasties scoop prizes at the 2012 Soil Association Organic Foods Awards. It’s great to be recognized for two of our real core products we make by the thousand every week” and then, guess what? The homity pies did it again in 2013, as did three of our soups, our treacle tart and Seville orange marmalade.

These days, most of our food comes from factory production lines. It’s more Ford ‘Model T’ than food as our grandparents knew it. Our production kitchen is just that – a kitchen. Anyone with the most basic knowledge of cooking would recognise everything that’s going on. They should do because it’s just what they’d do at home – on a larger scale.

The kitchen moved from the back of the shop a few years ago. Now we are just over the hill at Hole Farm with Riverford Organic Dairy. As well as the above mentioned pies, soups and marmalade, we make an impressive range of pasties, preserves, cooked meats, cakes and tray bakes, dips and fresh and frozen ready meals. Most of the ingredients are organic, as many as possible are from the farm and, most importantly, they’re all easily recognised.

BUTCHERY

Riverford started off selling English charcuterie made from the farms pigs so, not surprisingly the butchery is still at the heart of the shops.

Diets have changed and ‘meat and two veg’ has become ‘ten veg and a bit of meat’ but meat still has an important part to play, both in the kitchen and as part of mixed farming systems. We keep up with the times, both in butchery techniques and cuts, cooking suggestions and how we source our meat.

All our meat is sourced locally, GM and additive free and free range, from a small group of farmers we trust and have dealt with for years. They all farm within an hours’ drive of the abattoir. Beef, lamb, mutton, rose veal and venison are organic and grass fed. – so it’s good for you (higher omega 3 fatty acids) and good for the environment (less imported grain and soya and a lower carbon footprint). It’s good for local farmers too. We offer both organic and additive free free-range chickens and pork.

Traditional butchers. Home delivery/mail order shopping might be all the rage and supermarkets have tried everything under the sun but, for service and quality, there is something special about a traditional butchers counter. Our butchers keep well stocked meat counters at the Staverton and Yealmpton stores while Totnes keeps a fridge full of pre-packed meat from the butchery. If there’s anything you’d especially like, like a boned and butterflied leg of lamb, then a helpful butcher will be willing and able to prepare it for you. You’ll not only find fabulous cuts of properly hung and aged organic beef and yellow skinned organic chickens but also game in season and hams and gammons cured and smoked to perfection.gammon.

We don’t stop at traditional meat cuts. There are also our own meatballs, sausages, black pudding, burgers, kebabs, bacon and gammon. Everything is made from scratch, rather than a packet, from the best, fresh ingredients. We’re also endlessly looking for ideas and working on new things like stocks and broths, salamis and salumis (cured whole muscles), natural cure bacon, meatballs etc.

Proper dry cured bacon. Our free range bacon is cured in draining trays, turned and rubbed with salt every other day and spends a fortnight curing and a week hanging. Our smoked bacon is properly smoked for at least twelve hours over oak shavings.

‘A truly great sausage’ (Jay Rayner, The Observer, 2003). Our bangers, of which we are rightly proud, are made by us with the best ingredients to produce bangers of distinction. Meat, rusk, water, fresh herbs and natural spices are main ingredients in our sausages. We have a wide selection to suit most tastes from the simple pork sausage to a fiery Thai sausage. We even mix our own seasonings and there aren’t many butchers who can say that. We also make several gluten free sausages, including our own cooking chorizo, and a particularly good black pudding.