Rod and Julie Calder-Potts of Highbank Farm are prime examples of people who have diversified their enterprise, creating an ecologically and economically viable enterprise.
Located in Co. Kilkenny, Highbank Farm has been producing organic apples on the family farm since the 70s.
Their organic orchard supplies them with apples for artisan apple juice, apple syrup, apple cider and vinegar. They process most of this produce on the farm.
The couple has more recently built a distillery on the farm. They are now producing apple gin, apple brandy and apple vodka.
Respect for and connection with nature is at the heart of the farm.
“All of our production is to the strictest of organic standards. No chemicals are sprayed on the apples, neither are any herbicides or chemical fertilisers used.”
They continuously work to enhance biodiversity on the farm. They have built two lakes and planted forestry all around the farm. Furthermore, they sowed pollinator-friendly flowers to encourage solitary bees amongst other insects.
There is a wonderfully diverse range of wildlife on the farm, including a badger set, snipe, otters, kingfishers, raptors, buzzards, crows, rooks, jackdaws, ravens,
magpies, jays, woodcock, as well as a wide range of insects and fungi.
Rod and Julie are passionate about supporting small-scale Irish farmers and producers.
They welcome visitors from near and far to their farm and run farm walks, talks, events and workshops throughout the year.
Farming for Nature
The couple has joined Farming for Nature’s growing Ambassador network.
Now in its fourth year, Farming For Nature aims to “inspire, share and celebrate” the stories of farmers across Ireland who manage their land in a way that sustains nature while providing a livelihood for their family.
Rod and Julie are part of this year’s 23 ambassadors from across Ireland and include beef, sheep, forestry, dairy, horticulture and tillage farmers, who manage a wide range of very valuable habitats, including species-rich grasslands and heaths, wetlands, woodlands and hedgerows.
They said: “We were appointed ambassadors for Nature in late 2021.”
“Unexpectedly, the ambassadorship has given us permission to proselytise on behalf of sustainable farming and farming for nature.”
“We can also encourage farmers who are casting glances in the direction of a more benign way of approaching their farms.” Rod and Julie Calder-Potts concluded.