Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why I'm against a national face for cider.

(And why I support only regional/ local chapters of cider organization...)

   Recently U.S. cider producers have organized and pressed for a unified face to “U.S. cider.”  The thought is that by uniting we can influence the government to change cider regulation.  I’m all for that one mission, but beyond it I would like to see the national face disband and our focus spent on our art. We need to engage with the trees and the people immediately around us, not on creating access to new markets and lower tax rates. This benefits mass-production.
  The "life" of cider is in the relationship of people to the land (by way of the apple tree) and we fermenters/ farmers are ambassadors of that relationship.  This is where our attention must be.  Going "national" is a distraction. I might even go so far as it destroys that intimate relationship. "National Cider" might just be a scheme to get mass-production on par with local cider-makers. (Certainly lucrative markets, like here the Northeast, "local" is an advantage over mass-production.)
   In fact, I always just assumed cider was particular to the Northeast (from Virginia to Maine) and to the rural communities that traditionally grew apples at an non-industrial scale. In historic apple growing regions it's ridiculous to think of cider as a new trend.  And frankly, I feel protective about this heritage.  I want the majority of cider to be drank in the very region it was produced.  And because we here in the Northeast have the farms to develop cider for our local markets, I think we need to prioritize saving these farms and focus on internal alliances.  We have the population to support our product, but we need to get the production to support our population.  That's what a relationship is.  But beware: While we don’t care to invade other markets, outside cider makers most definitely want in on our Northeast market.

   I can't stress enough the importance of locality.  Cider is birthed from the land and all it's properties.  This includes the human footprint and not just the climate and terrain influences.  When we look at "the people of this land" we will see exactly why outside cider makers want to plug into our circuit...
   So what is our market here in the Northeast?  First of all, let's forget the arbitrary state-by-state delineation and recognize the Northeast for what it is:  a region approximately 400 miles in radius from the New York City area.  This includes everything from Virginia to Maine and out to Buffalo and Pittsburgh.  This region amounts to about 180,000 square miles which is small, less then 1/17th of the combined land mass of just the “lower 48” states.  But despite this fractional size, it hosts over 70 million people, which is almost 1/4rth the total U.S. population.  And greater still, its economic and political influence generates over a 1/3rd of the total U.S. GDP. 
   This is the world we live in and these are the people we represent.  When we seek to make a drink which "expresses the land" it's fair to expect a drink which represents those 70,000,000 people.  You can't do that with cider from Minnesota or Washington.  
   As far as U.S. Cider is concerned: Let's work together to change the misguided regulation in D.C.  But after that let's call it a night and build a relationship with our own respective markets.

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