The Instagram post wasn’t up long, but long enough for the poster, a newish local wine company, to crow about how “sustainable” they were because they were planning on composting the still productive apple trees they ripped out of the ground so that they could plant yet more Pinot Noir. As opposed to what? Burning them? In the midst of a fire-prone area in the middle of an historic drought? Their acolyte fans were thrilled, adding the suggestion that apple wood was great for smoking bacon. A savvy advocate of more agricultural diversity not less, and a cider drinker, called them on it though, rallying a host of like-minded others to join the fray. I doubt it changed any minds, but it was satisfying to see that post vanish within a matter of hours.
I get that sometimes agricultural land needs to be repurposed. Times and tastes change, and famers have to change, too, or get into some other line of work. Farmers need to be a pragmatic bunch; they have mortgages, medical bills, and kids to put through school just like the rest of us. They can’t just grow what they happen to like the best. Or, they can, but they may well pay an untenable financial price for it. In the end, they’ve got to grow something that we, the (sometimes fickle) public, want to buy.
As consumers, we are not always aware of the impact that our buying choices have on the folks that produce what we eat and drink. But whether we acknowledge it or not, there is a direct relationship between what we put in our shopping carts and livelihood of the person that made it or grew it. Here in Sonoma County, as in many other places, we do sort of get that for we have embraced the idea of farm-to-table restaurants and eating local. But doesn’t it then follow that we should embrace drinking local, too? That’s pretty easy to do here with wine, or course, but it turns out that it’s just as easy to do with cider if you’re willing to be even a little curious.
The last time I counted there were roughly 20 companies making cider in Sonoma County and the three counties that touch its borders. I’m guessing there are a few more by now. All of them use locally grown apples in at least some of their ciders. I’m willing to bet wherever you are you’ve got a local cidermaker or two, too. Are they using local fruit or trucking in random bulk juice from somewhere else? If you’re at a tasting room you can ask, of course. If not you might be able to tell by reading the label, and if it isn’t clear, ask someone at the store or restaurant that is carrying it. And if they don’t know, well, shouldn’t they?
By picking a locally made cider, made from locally-grown apples, you are not just supporting a business run by one of your neighbors, though that’s a fabulous thing in and of itself. You are creating even bigger ripples through the local economy and showing that you value diversity–not just social diversity but also agricultural diversity. Which means a farmer will have just a little more encouragement to keep her apple trees in the ground.