In our first proper year, right after we had ordered our press, we ran up some flyers on the printer offering to swap apples for cider (once we had made it). We handed them out at the village show and from the start people were interested. On that very day a mutual friend introduced us to Mick who had bought an orchard of 3000 neglected trees without realising quite what he’d done. Mick’s trees alone could probably supply all the apples we currently need.
So it’s a funny thing, when you ask for help, where that request might lead you. We are friends with Mick now and mixed up a Batch especially for his daughter's wedding which took place in that Orchard.
It turns out asking for help was exactly the right thing to do. Most farms and large houses round our way once kept an orchard and their remnants are still there providing an abundance of fruit that most families can’t get through on their own. Leaving it rot always feels such a waste. So, many people we’d never met before as well as plenty we had offered up fruit and welcomed us into those gardens and orchards. We are friends with many more of them now and look forward to reconnecting at the start of the picking season.
We get access to range of varieties, including occasionally old cider varieties that add something special. Our first batch “A bit of OMFF” was made exclusively with local fruit that came to us this way. As well as being a physical manifestation of the community that made it, it is also very much a product of its place. It’s the most local of local ciders we make. Even though we can never be quite sure what’s gone into it, each year it is distinctly OMFF, each batch carries some mark of the terroir (to use a wine phrase). We like that about it.
To start with the two of us would do the rounds on our own, picking or collecting fruit promising to return with cider the following year. These days we leave he cider once we've picked as we’ve plenty maturing. It used to be quite hard work and at times a bit of a slog. Then after a while friends came down to help and the work was easier, faster and more productive. Since then our picking days have become social occasions, friends, families, children, club members and their pets gathering to collect fruit on sunny autumn days. Climbing trees, enjoying being outdoors and in good company. We only need to do a few each year to gather all the fruit we need.
Having all these people coming out to help us made us realise something important. It’s not just about making cider. The way we do it is important too. Making cider with friends is better, getting people out doors with their friends and family is a good thing. Having a shared endeavour is a good thing. Building a community around us is a good thing. That’s what inspired the cider club, partly its about selling the cider, but we called it a club for a reason, we want people to get involved and feel part of it too. It’s your club too and if you like food, and you like the outdoors, and you like making things and being active, you might like this club.
On 2017 we launched an Apple appeal with the local paper and radio station. Loads more people stepped up and offered fruit or dropped it to the house. We gave out lots of cider and discovered three new orchards within a few miles of the Cidery. Every year it feels like we grow deeper connections with the place we live and work and the people in it. One picking day over 60 people turned up unexpectedly and we were slightly overwhelmed. We don't do so much picking ourselves these days, we’re too busy preparing lunch and refreshments!
We want a community of enthusiastic people around us to join us in the Orchard to share the things we enjoy, to teach us things and learn from us if they want to. We love that our tribe is growing and want to keep extending the invitation. You are invited too. Join us in an orchard or at the Cidery and enjoy a slice of the good life.