Mission

BESPOKE • ORGANIC • BRITISH

Garthenor’s mission is to promote and provide a variety of sustainable, organic & British wool products in an ecologically responsible way. Our aim is to help secure the future of British organic agriculture and the British textile industry.

We source, produce and sell Certified organic wool products, including yarn, fleece and bespoke knitwear. All the wool you’ll see with our name on it has been certified to global organic standards.

We started in the 1990s, starting with wool produced from our own sheep. We’ve since expanded faster than our flock, and we buy raw fleeces from around the UK directly from the farmer – no middle man, which means all our wool is fully traceable from sheep to jumper.

History

We chose our sheep breeds originally for the variety of their fleeces, some of which Sally spun by hand and then knitted or weaved into rugs. In the late 90s we had our first batches of yarn spun commercially at The Natural Fibre Company which was then located in Lampeter – only 7 miles from Garthenor. These first batches of Ryeland, Shetland, Herdwick and Manx Loaghtan yarn were all shorn from our own sheep and proved very popular at a time when “real” wool was difficult to obtain. As the farm already had organic certification we worked along side the Soil Association to establish an organic textile standard to include wool. These standards were eventually finalised in 2003 when Garthenor Organic Pure Wool became the first fully certified organic yarn in the world.

At Garthenor, our wool is a product of our unwavering values towards a sustainable, quality and British business. You can trace these values right back to our beginnings – we were the very first company in the world to produce and sell certified organic yarns, and we have always been a key market figure in creating, pushing and improving these organic standards.

Business Principles

Good work takes time

In Wales, there is a saying that we work and live by:
“Ara’ deg mae mynd ymhell”
This roughly translates to “Go Slowly and Go Far”. Our products are the culmination of hundred of years of British textile industry, and thousands of years of farming. We understand the inherent value in the raw fleeces all our products come from, and it’s impossible to hurry the sheep along!

Be your own customer

Every product we create are products that we are proud to have our name to. Our criteria is simple – would we buy this, and be happy with it? Only if it passes this test will you see it on the shelves with our name on it.

Environmental Responsibility

Environmentally responsible business management is more than a gimmick or a selling point to us. Since founding Garthenor some 20 years ago, it has been at the core of everything we do.
Read more about our Environmental Policy.

Be Authentic

We don’t copy others. We believe that truly great products are in our DNA, and that can’t be found anywhere else.

Farming Principles

Caretakers of the land

We as farmers are merely caretakers of our land until the next generation, and as such should cause as little harm as possible. Wherever possible, we should improve the land and the ecosystems around us. This is true of all farmers who farm organically, which is why we think it’s the best possible approach to agriculture.

Organic Values

Our values are consistent with the founder of the Soil Association, Lady Eve Balfour:

“Throughout biological evolution, starting from single celled organisms right up to the complexity of rain forests, the process has been characterized by increasing diversity among species, lengthening of the food chains, and progressive enrichment of the environment. For the first time in the history of the planet the actions of modern man appear to be putting this process into reverse. Whole species of fauna and flora are being eliminated, the food chains are becoming shorter, and the environment progressively impoverished. It only takes a little imagination to picture what could happen if the trend continues.”

Principle of Health

Organic Agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.

Principle of Ecology

Organic Agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.

Principle of Fairness

Organic Agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.

Principle of Care

Organic Agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.

On The Farm

Garthenor is a small family farm located in west Wales overlooking the Teifi valley towards the Cambrian mountains. The farm is owned and run by Sally, John and Jonny. Here we have flocks of Shetland and Ryeland sheep, both white and coloured and also Shetland Cheviots – very lively ewes. Our traditional breeds of free range hens and ducks produce the organic eggs which we supply to local shops; and the large organic fruit and vegetable garden and polytunnel keep us in fresh produce. Bob the sheepdog keeps everything in its place and is as happy helping with hedge laying, cleaning out ditches, sorting fleeces or putting chickens and ducks to bed as she is working the sheep before falling asleep beside the kitchen range.

All our fields are laid to permanent pasture bordered by well-established hedgerows, trees and streams. These are not only of benefit to our farmed livestock, offering shelter, shade and fresh water from the natural springs but of great importance to the wild birds and animals visiting the farm. We are fortunate to have a large heronry in the forest bordering some of our land and Red Kites, Buzzards and some of the smaller birds of prey are seen every day. The woods and ponds on the land host a hive of wildlife including amphibians, small birds and rodents.

We are firm believers that we are merely caretakers of the land and as such should cause as little harm as possible so converted all the land to organic in the 90s. The whole farm is entered into both Glastir Organic and Glastir Advanced – a Welsh scheme which was set up to deliver environmental improvements for a range of objectives including habitats, species, soil and water.

Farm History

The area surrounding Garthenor has been populated since Roman times. In fact the name of the farm is thought to have derived from Garth henorius – view of the garth. Bremia, the Roman fort’s remains are located in the valley below Garthenor beside the river Teifi.
An original drover’s track still runs through the farm with a natural water spring adjoining it which now supplies our water in the house and farm.
Garthenor farm used to be part of the Olmarch Estate until 1895 when the estate was sold off and has then changed hands a number of times.

Organic

All our wool is certified organic at every step of the production. This creates a finished product that is kinder to the environment and is cleaner, more natural and purer.

Organic agriculture supports better animal welfare. Organic sheep are reared, fed, sheltered and transported with consideration for their wellbeing. Cruel practices are prohibited and animal stress is minimised. Organic farmers take a preventative approach to disease, so animals are not routinely treated with antibiotics, wormers or pesticides. Organic animals are reared on organic feed and grazed on organic land, and are free to pursue their natural behaviour with plenty of space outside and a free range life.

Organic wool production doesn’t use harmful manufacturing chemicals. Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) ensure that the chemicals used in processing textiles meet strict requirements on toxicity and biodegradability. In contrast, non-organic manufacture uses tens of thousands of acutely toxic chemicals, including heavy metals, formaldehyde and aromatic solvents, many of which are classified as hazardous by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and have been associated with cancer, birth defects and hormonal and reproductive effects in wildlife and humans.

The end garments are residue free. By banning and restricting harmful chemicals in organic textile production and processing, final products don’t contain allergenic, carcinogenic or toxic chemical residues from them. Tests on conventional clothing have revealed traces of pesticides, fire retardants, formaldehyde and toxic dyestuffs. These residues can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin and may cause allergies, skin rashes or respiratory problems.

British

Great Britain is known for being just that – Great. Our industries, innovations and inventions have been world leading for hundreds of years, and we’re proud to be able to say that our products are British, from start to finish.
All our fleeces come from sheep that have been bred and farmed in Britain, and all of them are from traditional British breeds of sheep.
The fleeces are then sorted and graded at our office in Mid Wales, based at Garthenor Farm, before being sent to the spinning mill in Cornwall.
From sheep to yarn, the wool never leaves the UK during production – a truly British product.

Farms

Natural

All our supplier farms are certified organic and annually inspected by their certifying body to ensure compliance.
We work with like-minded farmers, who believe that a natural, sustainable approach to agriculture is the way forward.
We believed in supporting farmers and paying them a fair rate for their wool. For years, the cost of shearing a sheep was more than the value of the fleece, and we’re fighting to change this. Wool is a unique, quality material that has diverse characteristics across all the British breeds of sheep.

Sheep are a natural resource in the UK, which has over 60 breeds; more than any other country and all offering different fleece properties.
Wool is naturally biodegradable, composting down in just a few years while releasing valuable nutrients to the soil.
Renewable: Shearing takes place every year not only to obtain the fibre but importantly, for the welfare of the sheep to keep it cooler and cleaner throughout the summer months.
Wool is the best all-season natural insulator on earth due to the crimp in the fibre which forces each strand to butt against each other, as opposed to lying side by side. This keeps the tiny air pockets intact, acting as small insulators. Therefore wool is commonly worn in desert regions where it is necessary to regulate both the cold of the nights and the heat of the days.
Wool is naturally flame resistant. Its main component, a protein called Keratin, coupled with the moisture collected in its fibres, makes it difficult to ignite. Although wool will burn under intense fire, it normally self-extinguishes when the flame source is removed.
Wool is a very resilient textile fibre that is both durable and flexible. A wool fibre can be bent more than 20,000 times without breaking.
Wool can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in water before it is saturated (a hygroscopic insulator)– and can also release it, which makes it a breathable fibre.
Wool is resistant to static electricity because the moisture retained within the fabric conducts electricity which is why wool garments are much less likely to spark or cling to the body.