Good Fruit Grower

October 2013

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Apples Marketing Finding the SWEET SPOT s a grower and marketer of premium tree fruits for the fresh market, Craig Campbell had to adjust his mindset when he got into the cider-making business. For fresh apples, he carefully monitors fruit maturity so he can pick at the best time, depending on when they'll go to market. For cider apples, he just looks at the orchard floor. "With cider apples, one of the best indicators is when they start falling off the tree," Campbell said. "That's the biggest single difference." Apples that are "dead ripe" have more complex sugars and make a better cider, says Campbell, who operates 350 acres of orchard in Tieton and Yakima, Washington, and grows cider apples for Tieton Cider Works, a business that he and his wife, Sharon, own. Craig Campbell thinks growing cider varieties is just as good a bet as growing apples for the fresh market. Modern systems How it started The Campbells became interested in hard cider production five years ago after a friend, Cindy Richter, who worked for an organic apple marketing company in San Franciso, took a cider-making course at Cornell University, New York. "She was excited and said, 'Why don't you plant some trees,'" recalled Craig, who also gets excited about doing anything new. 20 OCTOBER 2013 GOOD FRUIT GROWER PHOTOS BY T.J. MULLINAX Growers in traditional cider regions sometimes shake the crop off their big, old trees, instead of picking. But Campbell has been planting cider apples on modern systems—typically a slender spindle with ten feet between rows and three feet between trees—that will form a fruiting wall. Pickers will harvest the fruit from a platform, and there's the potential for mechanization. Although establishment costs are $30,000 per acre (not counting land), Campbell said the fruiting wall is efficient and should generate high yields, which lowers costs. The market price for cider apples is 40 cents per pound, if you can find them. This spring, Campbell went into partnership to form a new venture called Cider View, and planted 30 acres of cider by Geraldine Warner apples on this system at Tieton, using benchgrafts on Malling 9 rootstocks planted in place. He believes his is the largest cider apple orchard in the West. The largest cider apple grower in the country is reputed to be Steve Wood, who owns Poverty Lane Orchards and Farnum Hill Ciders in New Hampshire. He has 70 acres and sells his apples across the country. Cider View also grafted over five acres of Fuji apples to Ashmead's Kernel, a sweet-sharp apple that can be used to make single-variety ciders, blended, or sold fresh. The thinking behind the new partnership was that planting cider varieties would be a good investment, given the rapid growth of the cider industry and the shortage of apples for cider making. It's every bit as good a bet as growing apples for the fresh market, Campbell said. "We could well be in an oversupply situation with apples because of all the plantings." Tieton Cider Works aged reserve bottles waiting to be labeled. Scan the code at right to see a video and learn more about the cidery, or go to

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