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Lost Nation Orchard: growing organic apples with Apple Grower author Michael Phillips

Cider Press Shares

Our trees are now producing sufficient quantities of apples for cider making purpose. Community investment to set up a commercial cider press comes next. Here's where we examine costs, look closely at the politics of cider, and propose Slow Money ways for folks to help the cause.

Our post'n'beam barn was built with an apple addition in mind. The cider set-up would have some variation of a hydraulic press, a grinder with means to readily move the pomace onto the press, a refrigerated bulk tank, and a bottling station. Cool storage for dessert fruit will be on the main floor, a true godsend for any fruit grower. Solar panels to power this operation are a future goal, should there be a local food investor ready to step to the plate. Construction costs will be $50,000 minimum (that's our contribution as the farmers) with used mill equipment running at least $25,000.

The national food police only allow unpasteurized cider to be made and sold directly on the farm. Real Cider tastes so good! and has the sorts of healthy enzymes and antioxidants you would expect in a "living food." Nevertheless, bureaucracy and vested interests alike are unrelenting in eventually wanting to shut down the last artisan cidermakers through mandatory pasteurization. Reasonable safety results when caring craftsmanship meets plain ol' common sense - like pressing handpicked fruit only - in the making of sweet cider. The choice to drink the real thing should ultimately be an individual decision.

What fun when people come together to press cider! Photograph circa 1900, Dummerstown, Vermont
What fun when people come together to press cider!
Photograph circa 1900, Dummerstown, Vermont

The business prospects here are pretty daunting, eh? Investment in a cider mill is not going to make exorbitant returns as much as simply enable a delicious community service. The regulatory climate is absolutely unreliable. And we're a small farm (in mountain country to boot!) dependent on Nature to deliver apple harvests that pay the bills year after year.


The Lost Nation Cider Club will be a community-based venture. Together we have found a way to establish "member-ownership" and thus shift regulatory reach.* Those dynamics in turn empower some number crunching as regards Cider Press Shares. Fresh cider can be purchased by shareholders only, noting the going price will be reduced by $2 per gallon as member-owners have jointly purchased the infrastructure. A clean and simple return!

A good apple year at Lost Nation Orchard will result in copious amounts of organic sweet cider. Wisdom points to setting a goal to find 100 investor shareholders to raise $25,000 . . . which amounts to $250 per share. Such shares could be transferred (sold) by the orchard business to others on a waiting list when one leaves the area. What are the odds of finding that kind of support in the North Country? Now is the time to let Michael know of your shareholder commitment by initialing and signing our press share contract and sending along a check while shares continue to be available.

Together we will make this cider vision real beginning in 2019.

Cider will get pressed in-season, as apple varieties ripen. Typically we are open on Friday-Saturday-Sunday for fresh apples sales in the months of September and October. Fresh sweet cider will await members on these weekends, along with a private (cider club) weekend or two later in fall. Members would bring their returnable jugs (provided by the orchard) and refill as desired at the reduced price. Members will also receive a 10% discount on bagged fruit, making the trip 'out on the nation' all the more worthwhile.

*Such thinking has been upheld in raw milk cooperatives where individuals buy a share in the cow and thus no official can stop you from drinking your milk, unpasteurized or not. Cider would work similarly. You wouldn't actually "buy cider" but rather pay for the apples from which the cider was made and the labor and costs involved in pressing and bottling.

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