All the news from the farm, the latest information on our produce & products and lots more!
Come and see a working commercial fruit farm which also wins awards for its care of the environment.Including Guided walks, and Bees, Birds and Moths as special interest sessions. Sunday June 9th between 10.30am and 4pm at Castle Fruit Farm on the B4215 between Newent and Dymock. More information to follow here and on our Facebook page. Weather looking good ! Apple Juice and cake and teas available.
Castle Fruit Farm High Spots in 2017. Successful growing and harvesting season.Bumper crops thanks to our great team here and our summer family of harvest workers. Richie and Claire have added a new Baby Bentley,baby Maddie to the team. Having our work recognised by several awards this year. Seeing signs of increasing diversity of natural life on the farm Taking part in the Ledbury Food Group photo year project. Working with our new partner Prima Fruit was a pleasure and a success for both parties Challenges for 2018: The impact of Brexit is still unclear both for our farm and all others who need seasonal labour. Listening to the current debate, not much has changed and there has been very little response from the government, who do not appear to understand the consequences to the rural economy, food security and the survival of our agricultural and horticultural sector. Harvest seasonal labour is not an immigration issue! It is a result of Brexit. Our thriving horticultural and agricultural businesses are an important part of the rural economy. If we no longer invest and disappear , the knock on effect on the rural economy would be significant. Food security : the less
Michael & Christiana Bentley of Castle Fruit Farm were winners at the 2017 Waitrose Farming Partnership Annual Conference, in the category ‘Farm Risk Assessment’, for their work encouraging biodiversity in a commercially successful orchard. Read here to find out more about our work to promote biodiversity and to create a sustainable future for our farm. Or get in touch to find out more about our sustainably produced apples, pears, plums and juices.
We are thrilled to announce that Castle Fruit Farm was recently awarded the 2017 Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) Silver Pintail Trophy in recognition of our commitment to sustainable agricultural practices and wildlife protection! This year, the Gloucestershire award was focused on creating food and habitats for pollinators, through a range of interventions and land management practices. Over recent years, there has been a dramatic decline of bumblebees and other pollinators, and two bumblebee species have gone extinct since the start of the 20th century. As a family business growing fruit and preparing hand-made apple and pear juice, we are committed to cultivating the land to ensure biodiversity for generations to come. This means that wherever possible we use natural, biological and cultural methods to control pest, disease and weeds thus minimising the use of agrochemicals. The farm, near Newent in north Gloucestershire, has a microclimate that is ideal for orchard fruit. Stonefruit, in particular, can be affected by early frosts and the form and situation of Castle Fruit Farm enable the reliable production of plums and gages. Pollination is key to good cropping in orchard fruit, and pollinators are key to the health of the ecosystem, supporting the lives
The magic of pollination has happened and we have a myriad of insects to thank and above all think about. Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the male anthers to the female stigma which is essential to kick start cell division and set the fruit. Poor pollination leads to poor fruit set and yield and misshaped fruits, neither good news! There are many insects that pollinate and to encourage large populations we need to provide sources of pollen and nectar right through from March until September. We must also provide habitat for all these pollinators nesting places and winter hideaways. All our non tree acres must be managed for these very important workers and here on Castle Fruit farm we are increasingly working to provide for them . We leave hedgerow margins, we don’t prune hedges every year, we are planting wild flower banks and keep as much brush, bramble thickets, dead trees and vegetation as possible . We mow every alternate alleyway to let flowers set seed and provide habitat. This is all a far cry from previous practice when farmers were urged to be tidy and cut and trim and spray everything in sight.What ignorance and with
Who is going to harvest our fruit this year ? Buds are breaking on the Valor plum trees and hurrah,the blackthorn is in full blossom so the pollinators can get to work. These are our free workers so we try to make sure pollen is available early on by planting goat willow and keeping some of the hedges uncut for their early blossom. More on the importance of biodiversity later as what is more pressing is organising our harvest workers. Like all farmers we rely on seasonal labour to harvest our crops. In our case this means a group of Bulgarians who come every year for 3-5 months. Who works here has recently become a topic of heated discussion as Brexit and immigration hit the headlines. There are those who oppose this “immigration” and those who believe we should employ our local unemployed. The situation is not so simple and these are some of the issues as I see them.
Winter Work : ” surely there is nothing to do now it’s winter ” How that makes Clive laugh ! One of the foremost things on our minds is :Tree planting. Orchards are being continually renewed, driven by age, unprofitability and the never ending desire of consumers for the new. It is a necessary and huge commitment in every way not just financial. The other tasks at this time of the year are pruning , machinery maintenance , coppicing, logging, ditching , hedge cutting and planning labour for next season, and on wet days catching up on research findings and never ending paperwork – deserves a blog on its own !
We are very keen to increase the biodiversity here at Castle Fruit Farm for all sorts of reasons. Firstly , orchards are a wonderful habitat and have a unique part to play in maintaining the richness of our natural world which is being challenged in so many ways – by farming practices, by the insatiable demand for houses and over enthusiastic tidiness ! We are not owners of this land but custodians and have a responsibility to tend and nurture it for future generations as well as make our living. There is happily a symbiotic relationship between good husbandry and promoting biodiversity . We need a good population of insects for pollination. We need to provide all year round sources of pollen and nectar by promoting healthy populations of wildflowers and varied hedges.
Mervyn is an accredited ringer and is monitoring migrant populations of Redwings, Field Fares and Thrushes. All his data goes to the British Ornithological Society . He sets his nets in which he drops a device which plays the call of a male Lithuanian Redwing and it certainly attracts the crowds. A quick weigh and examination follows and the birds fly off unharmed but ringed . Sometimes he catches ringed birds but more often not. More details will follow !