(10/02/12) - Mother Nature's mood swings wiped out most of Mid-Michigan's apple crop this year, but that created an opportunity for one local orchard to diversify and expand its hard cider business - first established nearly a decade ago.With organic apples in short supply, Almar Orchards had to come up with a new and different way to supply its growing customer base.
"We're now in 38 states and we're growing about 20 to 30 percent per year in sales," says Zachary Koan. Koan is the manager of hard cider operations on his family's farm. The bottling operation started out as a bit of insurance, since the fresh apple crop, like the weather, varies from year to year. "We would put away the previous year's juice into totes and ferment it out and we could sell that the following year and not have to worry about that crop," Koan said.
Although this year's harvest never came in, last year's bumper crop and organic apple shipments from other parts of the country are helping meet demand. The meteorological swings in Mid-Michigan eventually led to the creation of another type of cider beverage, one that could be easily produced using alternative suppliers. "Its called "Northern Neighbor". We buy apples from up north and we buy Saskatoon berries from Saskatchewan, in Canada," Koan said.
The non-alcoholic beverage appears to be catching on as another fall treat. "We've had a lot of positive reviews. We've been selling it here at the store for about a month. We're now in 5-6 different states selling it, and they have already put in second orders for the product," Koan adds.
The bottom line is, you can't fool Mother Nature, but sometimes you can adapt to her fickle ways.