Although Ramborn uses organically grown fruit, CEO Carlo Hein says many farmers are confronted with chemical pesticides which have been linked to health threats.
(Photo: Véronique Kolber)
Protecting Luxembourg’s orchards
On 3 June, World Cider Day takes place to celebrate not only the popular drink but also the meadow orchards in which the apples grow. Delano caught up with Carlo Hein, founder and CEO of Ramborn, as his team gear up for their own celebration, in order to learn more about the future of Luxembourg’s orchards.
Orchards are more than just a group of trees: they are biotopes, living habitats for a variety of plant and animals species. Carlo Hein is well aware of this fact: long before he started producing cider and perry, he was working in sustainable real estate, building up Luxembourg’s renewable energy network with wind farms and solar parks.
But the orchards in Born, where the Ramborn Cider Haff (farm centre) is located, are particularly special for him, as he grew up just around the corner. Seeing the fruit falling to the ground and not being used--partly due to distilleries dwindling--was one of the inspirations behind his starting cider and perry production in the first place.
However, over the years the orchards have changed. “Orchards always surrounded the villages, but as populations grew and villages expanded, orchards tended to decline due to growth and construction,” he says.
What’s more, until around the 1930s, he estimates, drinking cider was quite normal, but demand lagged, even if cider was still consumed at a more local level.
“Running against time”
Since 2015, Ramborn has planted around 200 new trees each year and restored over 2,000 more. Hein says that, according to surveys, there were around 1.2 million fruit trees in the grand duchy in 1902 but only a quarter of those by 1992.
When you consider some fruit trees can live beyond 50 years, it begs the question: what is happening to the old stock? On one hand, chemical substances are to blame, but natural parasites (i.e., mistletoe) can also play a role.
But the figures for the young stock are even more dramatic, Hein says: 635,000 in total versus 17,000 in 1902 and 1992, respectively. “We need young trees to ensure there are old ones afterwards, and it takes around 30 years for these trees to develop a biotope, so we are running against time on both sides. Planting isn’t for just one generation.”
To date, the company has planted around 200 new trees per year since 2015 and restored over 2,000 more. Photo: Véronique Kolber
Although Ramborn uses organically grown fruit, Hein says many farmers are confronted with chemical pesticides which have been linked to health threats. He calls orchards the “rainforests of Europe”, adding that around 5,000 organisms can live in these biotopes, meaning that when the trees are threatened, a host of other species are too.
Political discussions have been underway, most recently with the law of 15 May 2018 on environmental impact assessment and amending, which will evaluate environmental incidences based on the following factors: population and human health; biodiversity; soil, water, air and climate; cultural heritage; and the interaction thereof.
Hein sees a direct link with each of these factors and orchards; but maintaining the quality of Luxembourg’s orchards is “only possible with everyone working together”.
Energising the community
On 3 June, Ramborn will host an event celebrating World Cider Day, where visitors can not only sample free cider but also hike around these orchards. It’s one of a number of efforts the company has made to create a sense of community around the biotopes.
Hein and his team will work together to customise events, from pruning courses with specialised teams from the Mullerthal to visitors joining to help with the harvest or just seeing how production works. He says around 50% of their tours are in English, which “I take as a good sign, that there is a huge interest from a variety of communities”.
One of his favourite aspects is learning about family stories, since “everyone seems to have something to do with apple trees. And whether it’s a youth club or a senior group visiting the centre, they go home really energised about what they have seen.”