Rod and Julie Calder-Potts of Highbank Organic Orchards won an IFWG Food Award in 2013 for their Irish Orchard Syrup, which is made purely from apples with no added sugar or sweeteners and is grown, distilled and bottled on Highbank Farm. This year they are being presented with the Guild’s Environmental Award.
Originally planted by the family in 1969 to complement the former hop gardens, the orchards and farm were converted to organic production in 1994. This began the process of returning the farm to a more environmentally inclusive husbandry. Over time, they have added two small lakes, woodlands and various wildlife habitats. No chemicals are sprayed on the apples, while herbicides, chemical fertilisers and manure from animals fed on GM food are strictly avoided.
But the focus at Highbank is on maximising output as well as minimising input. A variety of apples are transformed into everything from organic apple juices and ciders to a range of apple-based spirits (Crystal Apple Gin, Organic Pink Flamingo Gin, Organic Apple Vodka, Organic Orchard Liqueur Brandey (sic) and a calvados-style Organic Orchard Spirit). Even the waste by-products from the distillery are put to good use, with the acetone going to Brooklodge Hotel in Co. Wicklow to be used as organic nail varnish remover.