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Some last words

Mary here, realising it’s nearly six months since Martin’s last blog when he promised the next part of The Riverford Years. As customers sometimes ask, ‘What happened next?’ and we’re now about to hand over de la Torre’s to its new custodians, it’s over to me to give the briefest of accounts to get his ‘Life in Food’ up to date, just in time.


So here are the highlights…


The Riverford Organic Box Scheme: 350 local deliveries a week when Martin joined in 1998 and 26,000 national deliveries by 2005, achieved on the back of Martin planting the seed for a new business model and persuading owner Guy there was a good ‘F’ word: franchising! Nurturing that seed to fruition and further propagation led to Riverford winning the Daily Mail Brand Builder of the Year award at the British Franchise Association awards with what was the world’s first direct-from-the-farm organic food franchise. (There’s a lovely photo of Martin receiving the award, but it’s not exactly the newspaper I like to promote!)


Seven months in Australia: spending time with Martin’s Dad and loads of relations on that side of the family who live there – and doing some consultancy for a large fruit & veg wholesaler who wanted to set up a home delivery flower service and putting in an EPOS system for a wholefood shop.


Back at Riverford: taking on a project management role to scope and implement a major IT infrastructure project, making good use of knowing all parts of the business inside out. There was a difficult end to Riverford life, with a re-organisation leading to the post being made redundant.


Freelance life: consultancy work helping small organic farms in the South West develop their box schemes through better marketing and new IT systems and also, having gained RHS qualifications, running a gardening and garden design business.


Employment again: First, as the Enterprise Manager for a charity working in partnership with Bicton College on a horticultural project for learning disabled people, setting up a vegetable box scheme (of course). Second, working as Business Analyst for a large food manufacturing company… the experience of which led to de la Torre’s and connecting back to the values of great taste, provenance and slow food!


Up until taking on the deli, our work paths were in parallel (with just a few notable exceptions, such as in the early Riverford days when I (and the children) joined the ‘taste the difference’ organic carrots handout team at county shows, and I’ve in effect been accompanying Martin in his ‘Life in Food’. However, the last two and half years have been all about adventuring together. We’ve pooled his such varied experiences and skills in food and mine in arts and cultural management (while I’ve kept on some of my own work). Needless to say, it’s been very challenging with Covid and talking shop (literally) all the time has its downsides, along with our home filling up with shop ‘overspill’. But what a pleasure and a privilege it has been to build a business through sharing good food and great conversations with lovely customers. When people say to you, ‘I want to live in this shop’, tell you Friday Saturday Nights meals have bought cheer to lockdown and describe de la Torre’s as a ‘Heavenly little emporium of delectation…always full of Mediterranean sunshine’ we hand over the deli delighted to feel we’ve done something special for Tavistock. Thank you.


PS If you’d like to keep in touch with Martin on the next chapter, please email martindswarbrick@gmail.com




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