It starts with a bang- the annual Downtown Ithaca Apple Harvest Fest- and continues through a full week and 2 solid weekends of cider-centric events full of tastings, education, conviviality. It also happens smack in the middle of harvest and pressing season, and most of us are small cideries still playing both sides of the table: working the orchard and press by day, and dashing off to events in the afternoon and evenings. This is year 5 for the producer-initiated and -run Cider Week FLX, associated now with the New York Cider Association and aligned with Cider Week NYC (approaching 10/20-29/2017).
Given this perfect storm in harvest and cider drinking time, how does it work? Does Cider Week do the job to create 'cider ephiphanies' all over the region? Are we inspiring new cider devotees to our FLX orchard cider ways? And if so, does this mean enhanced sustainability for our family farms, our IPM and organic orchards and our desire to participate as living wage employers, aware and active enviromnental stewards, socially just businesses and members of healthy families?
Is it even possible to answer these questions mere days after Cider Week ends and as we return to the trees and press to catch up? Consider this a sally into addressing these larger issues as they affect our vision and day-to-day businesses, and join us in the conversation! For now, some thoughts from the collaborating minds that make up the Finger Lakes Cider House: Kite & String (house cidery), Black Diamond, Eve's Cidery and Redbyrd Orchard Cider.
Black Diamond Farm and Cider's Ian Merwin weighs in...
Cider week was the busiest ever for us this year. Some days we had simultaneous events in different places. It was great to have so much interest in ciders, but exhausting to keep up with it in the midst of harvest and pressing! Our farm/cidery tours on Saturday were definitely the high point for Black Diamond—about 80 people arrived for two tour groups, and most of them bought cider and/or Crosswinds Farm cheese while they were here. These farm tours connect us with customers from several states who know our apples and ciders, and are enthusiastic about seeing the home orchards and cidery where it all begins! With each successive FLX cider week, we can see the evolution of regional cider culture. People are increasingly appreciative of orchard-based ciders made from traditional cider varieties, expressing our unique growing conditions in upstate NY. This year we also noted that more people were asking for “dry” ciders, though they were sometimes unsure of what that really meant!
Thoughts from Eve's Cidery's Autumn Stoscheck
Cider Week 2017 brought folks from all over the country (and other countries too!) to our region to experience cider culture of the Finger Lakes. It was fun to see the passion folks have for drinking good cider and their excitement to get behind the scenes in the growing and making of it.
We led a cider apple and cider tasting workshop in the orchard at Indian Creek, and folks got really excited about tasting the differences in apples of the same variety grown on different farms.
We led a tour of our Albee Hill orchard where participants learned about the abstract notion of terroir in ciders, wild bees and the new resiliency paradigm in farming.
We also held a private dinner for special guests and tasted through our library of perries, both ours and some from across the ocean.
My favorite part of cider week this year was hearing from folks how they had just been at another cider week event. It was great to see people come to the area for days and attend the diversity of great happenings. I was also more than impressed to see the amazing food pairing local chefs are coming up with for cider because that's a key piece in the development of an authentic cider culture...local food made for cider.
Enthusiasm from Redbyrd Orchard's Eric Shatt
I feel like we had a bigger audience than ever and the understanding and interest in what we are doing is getting to people. We are being watched, and by some pretty impressive wine/food focused folks, this is great!!!!. After this year’s cider week I feel the momentum is moving in our direction. Cider in the Finger Lakes is special!!!
Kite & String thoughts from Melissa Madden
The end of such a big push leaves me wanting to tie it all up into an mentally neat package. The effort that goes into these 9 days of cider madness challenges us- as the owners and eternal hosts at Finger Lakes Cider House- to be convivial, hospitable and ever prepared for visitation. The increased attention to cider in the region asks us to step off-farm and out of the cidery and tasting room to share Kite & String at our accounts. I attempted to make sense of this schedule with one single post on our calendar, as well as individual event posts each day.
Meanwhile, the full bounty of the farm comes to fruition and demands love and attention just as the cidery ramps into overtime. We think of Cider Week as an opportunity to share this overwhelming abundance and engender love for the FLX landscape and farms as they are now. Meanwhile, we'd like to pay attention to the past and step away from the production and retail mentality- remembering that this long cider celebration falls right on Indigenous People's Day, with its obvious and complicated reflections on our generation of land owners and farmers. We also seek to pay homage to 400 years of growing trees and naturalizing apples and fermenting them into a beverage that has grown from scrumpy to craft and vies with fine (grape-based) champagne for a spot on the celebratory table.
How to wrap one's head around the opportunities for discussion here? And simultaneously do thousands of tastings both here and around the region? More and more, we're thinking of Cider Week as a magnifying glass on our year-round programming, on our messaging, on our social commitments. We hope each year to participate to the best of our ability in events that are both light and fun, some that are deeply nerdy and some that really delve into the true land-based issues we believe lie at the heart of orchard cider.