Nursery children plant new orchard at Blackford Distillery

Dozens of nursery school children and sponsors have planted trees to create an orchard in the gardens of Blackford Craft Distillery – home of Vesperis Pictish Gin,

Thirty-five apple trees have been planted at Maryfield of Blackford, near Inverurie with Rothienorman Nursery School as part of a Spring project. The orchard is expected to bear its first fruit in the next two to three years enabling Blackford Craft Distillery to produce North East Scotland’s first commercial cider.

Katie Sime, co-owner of Blackford Craft Distillery said “We plan to plant a further 70 apple trees on an acre of land at Maryfield over the next two years as part of our ‘branch to bottle’ philosophy. This will help preserve Scottish heritage apple tree varieties and we were are particularly pleased to have sourced the North East’s local apple trees ‘Tower of Glamis’ and ‘Beauty of Moray’ from endangered ancient orchards across Scotland.”

Katie added, “the orchard is the first stage of our holistic environment centred approach to business, when complete the orchard should offset approximately 35 tonnes of carbon a year. In addition, we aim to dig ‘Loch Sime’ a large wild pond and plant an edible hedge and wildflower meadow this year which will improve the biodiversity of the acreage here at Maryfield. We are honoured to be finalists in the Innovation category at the Scottish Rural Awards and the North East Scotland Food and Drink Awards 2019, based on this approach.”

 “As a small business within a close net village community, we really wanted to get people involved, particularly the village school. The orchard is a fantastic educational resource, not only planting trees but going forward we hope to maintain a relationship with the school so that when the trees start bearing fruit the children will be able to come and pick, and eat, the fruit themselves. As a teacher I feel this is a really important aspect of community involvement, first-hand knowledge of where food comes from is something not all children have the opportunity to experience. Schoolchildren will also be able to see the wildlife attracted to the surrounding land, which is perfect for outdoor learning.  I want to say a big thank you to all the children who had such fun this morning and all worked really hard.” 

Kate Malster, Early Years Lead Practitioner at Rothienorman Nursery School, believes in the importance of young children learning through their sensory and physical experiences “It is essential for children to get their hands dirty, engaging in real activities. Our children had great fun today, working together in the wind and the sunshine and the soil, and are growing and understanding, through apple trees, of the wholeness and cycles of life”

The company also invited the local community to sponsor an apple tree and to plant their own tree, “We had such a fantastic response and I would like to thank the sponsors who have supported us in bringing the orchard to life. One of the key challenges for rural business is the distance at which ingredients must travel, planting an orchard and growing key botanicals will minimise ‘food miles’ and importantly allowing us to produce cider and a base spirit for our Vesperis Pictish Spirits range with provenance from produce grown on site.”

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