Cider Corner: Your Neighbors Can Help Your Cidery Thrive

Don’t have a big orchard to pull your apples from? No big deal — staying small and focusing on your immediate surroundings can be one way to get a cidery off the ground if you’re in an area with backyard crab apples and willing neighbors.

Farmstead Cider founders Ian McGregor and Orion Bellorado did just that in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, managing to corner the market while also entrenching themselves in their community. They just needed the help of a grizzly bear population to get over the hump.

The cidermakers have grown their business slowly. McGregor went full-time at the company in 2020 and his co-founder pulled the plug on his day job in fall 2022. Over time, they’ve grown from under 1,000 gallons to almost 5,000.

“Grizzly bears are a big part of our story…we’ve got so many eating apples in residential neighborhoods,” McGregor told Brewer Magazine. “We’re using an urban orchard — it’s a collection of 1-10 trees per property and we have a collection of properties around the valley.”

Production picked up when a big grizzly with two-year-old cubs began meandering around town and grazing on windfall crab apples — which are just like regular apples, only they measure two inches or less in diameter.

“I had a landslide of calls from people asking us to go pick apples off their trees,” McGregor said. “Our ‘orchard’ doubled in size in a year and we created a lot of awareness in town about who we are. People learned who we were and that we were a solution.”

He said he’s not afraid to go knock on doors and ring doorbells and ask his neighbors if he can go pick their apples.

“I look for houses and see if they have trees in their yard and ask if they’re using their apples,” he said. “They say ‘no.’”

Their appreciation and commitment to remaining local includes naming their ciders after the neighborhoods and streets from which they picked the apples.

“The apples from those trees continue to go into the blend and they’re surprisingly consistent,” McGrefgor said. “People buy the cider and say, ‘That’s from my tree.’ I think that’s helping us.” 

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