A Kilkenny couple who produce organic apples on their family farm have joined the Farming for Nature (FFN) ambassador network.

Now in its fifth year, the initiative aims to highlight the work of farmers around the country who manage their land “in a way that sustains nature”, while still providing a livelihood for their families.

To date, over 60 farmers have been recognised through the FFN Ambassador Awards, which are sponsored by Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme.

They include beef, sheep, forestry, dairy, horticulture and tillage farmers who manage a wide range of valuable habitats including species-rich grasslands and heaths, wetlands, woodlands and hedgerows.

Organic apples

Rod and Julie Calder-Potts have been producing organic apples on their family farm in Kilkenny since the 1970s.

Highbank Farm’s orchards help the couple to produce artisan apple juice, apple syrup, apple cider, vinegars and more; the majority of the products are made on the farm.

“The varieties of apples are specially chosen for their juicing properties which are uniquely complex and full of health giving vitamins and minerals,” the couple said.

Highbank Farm. Image Source: FFN

In recent years, the Calder-Potts built a distillery on their lands to help them expand their range of products to include apple gin, apple brandy and apple vodka.

The couple have said that a connection to nature is at the heart of the farm which adheres to the “strictest of organic standards” meaning that no chemicals are sprayed on the apples.

Enhancing biodiversity on the farm is also a priority for the Calder-Potts who have planted forestry, sowed pollinator friendly flowers and built two lakes.

The Kilkenny holding is home to a range of wildlife including otters, kingfishers, buzzards and a badger set.

Rod and Julie Calder-Potts also regularly welcome visitors to their farm for walks, events and workshops throughout the year.

Meanwhile, nominations for FFN Ambassador Awards 2022 are still being accepted. The closing date for nominations is on February 14, 2022.