Someone recently recommended for all of us at Gattertop Sustainable Orchard to watch the documentary ‘The Biggest Little Farm’.

This documentary is a ‘heart-lifting, pig-packed and family-friendly film’ in which filmmaker John Chester and his wife Molly work to develop a sustainable farm on 200 acres outside Los Angeles.

When we got to the end I realised that although we don’t have the same challenges in Herefordshire as they do in California, the threat of wildfires and coyotes included.

The broad principle of our farm at Gattertop sustainable orchard is the same; biodiversity and farming with nature will produce a healthy ecosystem.

An important part of our farm is our traditional orchards which are havens for biodiversity and have now been recognised and celebrated as being ecologically benevolent and long-term sustainable.

They offer both food and shelter to hundreds of species some of which have high conservation priority.

By protecting traditional orchards and maintaining low- intensity management we protect all the species that live and forage there too. 

This is what is so important to us at Gattertop and what we love about our work throughout the year to sustain this natural ecosystem where everything is connected, and one part supports and nourishes another.

To demonstrate a few of the similarities:

1 We have at least four varieties of fruit trees in the 8 hectares of ancient orchards at Gattertop Sustainable Orchard dating back to 1086

2 We encourage biodiversity with a mixture of early and old, mid and late-flowering/fruiting trees so that our orchards are a source of nectar, pollen and fruit for longer. 

3 We make our bees happy, in our 4 hives and the part they play in cross-pollination is vital to providing a sizable crop each year. 

4 Our main crop is the Browns organic cider apple, which produces the most delicious medium dry cider, produced by Dunkertons Cider

5 These are harvested in the autumn and leftover windfall fruit provides an important source of food in the autumn and winter, for all creatures great and small.  And so the cycle continues.

6 By not using pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers in our orchards and just having enough livestock to graze beneath each tree, we are protecting the soils and natural ecosystem that is an orchard. 

7 This lack of intervention awards us being Soil Association certified organic. 

Orchards by nature contain elements of woodland, pasture, meadow grassland, are often bordered by hedgerows and can also include areas of scrub. 

These individual habitats combine to create a wildlife haven more than the sum of its parts which can support insects, birds and mammals.   And so we have an orchard in harmony with nature, regulating itself through diversity. 

This is a dream natural healthy ecosystem in front of us and every day I feel privileged to play a part in protecting it.