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In the run up to the release of our 4th issue of FEAST: A Dinner Journal, and our 2nd print edition, we are taking a look back at some of the Irish food champions who have filled the pages of our previous issues.

Julie and Rod Calder-Potts’ idyllic Kilkenny farm is a successful business where the bottom line is balanced with stewardship and strong organic principles. Their sustainable ideals have seeped into all they do, including the gentle growth of related farm businesses. They have carefully renovated the stone courtyard and farm buildings which now include a small shop and a space to sit and enjoy the farm’s bounty. There are rooms to rent in the renovated farmyard buildings too but Julie’s marketing plan is
a kindly one – there’s a pensive look in her eye as she explains that it would suit people in need of nurturing or perhaps an artist yearning some creative space.

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We arrived on a damp autumn day and found a spread of venison for lunch in their toasty farmhouse kitchen. In the middle stands an ancient tree trunk as part of the work unit and a range oven emits warmth and the smells of sweet dessert treats to come. If Bilbo Baggins lived in Kilkenny it would probably be here. Once we were fed and watered with plenty of their apple juice and a taste of their Medieval Honeyed Cider we meandered around the orchard. Rod Calder-Potts filled us in on the nuanced differences between the apple varieties – some were better for cider others were better for syrup, some could be enjoyed shaken from the trees. The rich limestone soil here is ideal for the success of the organic orchard and just to be clear what organic means to them: that’s no herbicides, chemical fertilizers or GMOs. Indeed GMOs are treated with such derision that that they don’t use manure from animals fed on GM food. The first apples were planted here in 1969 and the farm went organic in 1994. Part of this process has been the creation of two small lakes and a variety of habitats including woodland which ensures a level of bio- diversity so important to the practical workings of an organic farm.

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Their Organic Orchard Syrup has become a popular ingredient in many kitchens and we’re a little in love with their Dessert Cider. Never people to rest on their laurels there are also plans afoot to make a bitters – ideal for the many Irish hedgerow and foraged cocktails appearing across the country.

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 Highbank Orchards.

www.highbankorchards.com

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