Growing Our Organic Farm Apple Cider Program

When we purchased our organic orchard property in 2014, we inherited two acres of heirloom apple trees that consist of 350 semi-dwarf trees and offer more than 70 varieties of apples. Two years later, we established a high-density apple orchard. At the time, producing organic sweet apple cider wasn’t in the plan, but today, it is the star of our program, with its unique combination of nearly 100 heirloom and modern varieties of apples from the two orchards.

“Working with organic heirloom varieties provides a unique opportunity in fresh cider production,” says Brian Nicholson, president, CEO, and owner of Red Jacket Orchards, who produces our Wegmans Organic Farm Apple Cider. “We are reaching into the orchards of the past to create a delicious, one-of-a-kind product that allows consumers to enjoy a sip of history.”

In fact, the sweet apple cider program has been such a success that it continues to grow. This year, the team, led by Kyle Haley, orchard area leader, planted four new acres of high-density apple orchards consisting of 13 varieties, three of which – Pink Lady, Ashmead’s Kernel, and Enterprise – are brand new to our orchard.

“I’m proud that we planted these heirloom apples, some of which are several hundreds of years old, in a modern, high-density system,” says Kyle. “Growing organic heirloom apples may bring a new set of challenges, but more importantly, it demonstrates our commitment to flavor. These unique heirloom apples, alongside our modern varieties, keep our cider balanced, crisp and packed with flavor.”

In addition to growing the cider program, the organic farm team is focused on applying the lessons they’ve learned along the way to the grape program. The orchard is home to three acres and nine varieties of seeded and seedless grapes, previously sold as table grapes, that the team is now exploring opportunities to turn into organic grape juice.