The Northwest Agriculture Business Center entered into an agreement this winter to provide marketing and administrative services to the Northwest Cider Association (NWCA). The plan includes helping establish systems such as financial management, connecting cider apple growers with cidermakers, developing sponsorships, membership recruitment, and marketing to help the organization manage the expected growth.
The NWCA is a trade organization that represents the cider industry in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia. The membership currently includes 24 cideries. There are also membership categories for anyone associated with the industry such as apple growers, packaging companies, distributors, retailers, nurseries, or even cider enthusiasts.
According to Sharon Campbell of Tieton Cider Works, who was one of the volunteer cidermakers instrumental in creating the NWCA in 2010, it is imperative for any new industry to “look to the growing edge.”
“The NWCA was a young organization trying to grow and organize from within. Reaching the growing edge would have been impossible without the affiliation of the NABC,” she said. “The reason: NABC has a regional outreach in the same industry — agriculture — and is managed by people casting a larger net into farming, winemaking, cheesemaking, and more. Their efforts to support one aspect of agriculture will benefit all, including cidermaking.”
Working closely with Washington State University, NABC has become recognized as one of the most prestigious training grounds for new cidermakers. A series of workshops, some including renowned cider expert Peter Mitchell of the UK, have contributed to the Northwest becoming a cider powerhouse, with new cider makers coming online every few weeks. Last December NABC and NWCA partnered with WSU to host a regional seminar with standing room only, designed to bring prospective cider apple growers together with cidermakers who are seeking a steady supply of fresh cider apples in order to expand.
“A newly-formed volunteer organization can only go so far before it realizes the need for ongoing support that only paid staffing can provide. The NWCA/NABC affiliation has tremendous overlapping possibilities,” said Campbell.
As the Northwest is a formidable growing region for wine grapes and culinary apples, it has the potential to be great for growing cider apples. However there are still a lot of challenges before the region fully establishes itself as a cider culture. Research is needed, and NABC is supporting and helping to fund research being done by Dr. Carol Miles and her team at the WSU-Northwest Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon. This includes the potential for mechanical harvesting of cider apples as they do not require the careful hand picking of eating apples.
NABC is helping NWCA with the local and regional markets, but also at the national and global levels. Recently it submitted applications for multi-year, multi-state grant funding which included developing strategies for exporting cider. Also, the Northwest had the largest delegation at the national convention CiderCon Chicago in February 2013, with representatives conducting a number of workshops and participating in creation of the new national organization United State Cider Makers of America (USCMA). Currently the NWCA is mobilizing to support the Cider Act, new legislation to help redefine how cider is taxed in the U.S.
“Finnriver is very grateful for the new partnership with NABC,” according to Crystie Kisler, co-owner Finnriver Farm & Cidery. “As the craft cider movement in the Northwest continues to grow, we will all benefit from stronger collaborations. The NABC’s skills and resources will help support member cideries with business development through events, marketing and education, as well helping to plant the roots of a dynamic and vibrant cider culture in the PNW.”
Although cider is the fastest growing beverage in the county, and consumption grew 65% last year nationwide, the U.S. has a long way to go before it per capita consumption catches up with the United Kingdom, Ireland or some other parts of the world. Cider’s popularity has evolved since the late ’80s, but it’s only in the last few years that cider’s popularity has exploded nationwide.
For information on upcoming cidermaking classes offered by NABC and WSU, visit our course website.