I’ve been neglecting the blog lately due to some heavy dissertation writing, rewriting, and career hand-wringing. Many paragraphs have been relegated to the burn pile. Grafting new ideas onto old roots. Trying not to get swept away by some new theoretical position.
Cider is always on the mind, though, and I’ve been in on several conversations lately that hinge on the market capacity for craft breweries, cider, wine, and spirits. Speaking with some of my marketing friends, it sounds like keeping on top of the next big thing is increasingly fast-paced: new social media platforms to populate, new trends to mastermind. One day, it’s cider, the next, it’s craft distilleries. A colleague of mine with a more optimistic attitude is hoping to open another brewery here and is pretty sure that there’s more than enough space in the market, while another friend is convinced cider is the way to go now. And still a third thinks both are way behind the curve and the craft distilleries are the wave of the future.
It makes me wonder how fast trends are coming and going, and what incentive there is to get into the very long-term and labor intensive work of growing apples and grapes? I muck in on a part time basis at the vineyard here, and the losses from this past winter’s brutal cold are forcing the vineyard crew to pull some pretty long days dealing with the vine maintenance and replanting. It makes conversation about the ever-changing winds of market trends feel positively inane when you are cutting down vines in the early summer and contemplating the months of tying, training, shoot selection, and the years of re-growth before you get another harvest.
For me, the long term patience, and the care and cultivation that go into orchards and vineyards are what contribute to the magic of cider and wine. The importance and pleasure of the drink is not just in the taste – though that is certainly important – but in the mind, in the story of the place where that grape or that apple grew. The patience of wine and cider is something that appeals to my own personal sense of just being tuned into time and place and labor, where human stories and natural environments collide in agricultural artistry.
I see a parallel with organic or sustainably grown food, and my distaste for marketing that promotes it as a consumer choice for personal health or better taste. The importance of that enterprise is not increased nutrition, health, or taste – though of course these things are important too – but the knowledge that the food was grown and cared for in a way that was sensitive to the long term health of the environment and the economic and social sustainability of local communities engaged in this work.
I know good marketing is important for the success of a business and its ability to devote itself to the long-term care of its resources (trees, workers, community, as well as dollars). I still think that cider, in order to be viable in the long term, and not just another market trend or rising drinks category, needs to communicate its identity in a way that emphasizes its heritage, its sustainable environmental impact, and its connection to agricultural families, businesses, and communities. In order to do justice to the years of cultivation and care it takes to grow an apple, we need a message that can transcend the marketed, trending moment and put roots down for years to come. I’m more convinced than ever, after dragging dead grape vines to a burn pile and planting tender new ones for the future, that we need to be able to communicate the heritage, labor, and patience of cider orchards in the same way that the wine industry does for its vineyards and grapes.
Well, after that little missive, I’ve got to get back to the dissertation and the dirt.