The team unpacking a delivery of romano peppers had a big surprise this week, when a small gecko escaped from a crate and scuttled across the veg box pack house floor.
The tiny reptile, which has been identified as a Moorish Gecko, survived a brief chilly journey from farmer Paco Lozano’s organic farm in the Almería region of Spain, to Riverford’s farm in Buckfastleigh.
The peppers were harvested on Friday, and it is thought that the gecko must have climbed into a crate, thinking it looked like a good place to hide. The crates were then loaded on to a refrigerated truck with a temperature of just 8˚C, a bit of a contrast to the 26˚ climate in Almería!
Tony Teague, a fridge team worker, was the one to see the gecko first: “It was a bit of a shock, I just saw something jump from the crate and scuttle across the floor, luckily I was able to find it and pick it up before he got hurt or stood on”.
Fortunately, a fellow Riverford employee and former reptile shop employee, Meredith Price, soon came to the rescue to identify the gecko, and offer to take care of it. “It’s fortunate for this reptile that we have such a short supply chain. The fact that our veg is delivered so fresh means it did not have too long in refrigerated conditions. Reptiles need external heat to survive as they can’t warm themselves like mammals can.”
The farm have found the gecko a more permanent home at the Safe Haven Exotics Centre in North Devon, and local Riverford veg team Jo and Phil Limb who deliver in the area were on hand to make a rather unique veg box delivery to the centre.
Founded by farmer Guy Watson in 1987, Riverford Organic Farmers are best known for their iconic veg boxes, and deliver to around 47,000 homes a week across England.
Due to the UK’s colder climate, they use small scale family farmers overseas to grow items like peppers and bananas.
As an ethical business that considers the environmental impact of everything they do, Riverford never uses air freights and all produce is bought over by land or sea.
Part of Riverford’s ethos it to support and work with farmers they know and trust in the long run; they have worked with Paco for almost 10 years.
The gecko isn’t the first foreign friend they’ve found hiding in their fruit and veg, previous visitors include a Caribbean lizard and a European tree frog.
For more about Riverford, visit www.riverford.co.uk