When apples are abundant in Western North Carolina, it’s time to think about how to preserve the fruit. When stored in a cool, dark place, some apple varieties will stay tasty all winter. Others are turned into juice and ciders that capture the flavor of this quintessential fall fruit.
That transformation happens at Lewis Creek Farm in Henderson County, North Carolina. Trey Enloe shows us around his family’s orchard. He points out some of his favorite varieties—Gala, Cameos, Jonagolds, and Honey Crisp. Many of these apples will be eaten fresh this fall, but others are destined for a new endeavor that will preserve their flavor all year.
The farm recently added a new building where they press local apples for hard cider. “We press in bulk so we don’t have to deal with individual bottling. We can send out bulk loads at a time and then the cider makers can do their magic from there,” Enloe says.
Lewis Creek Farm partnered with Noble Cider, a hard cider company in Asheville. The farm grows several varieties of cider apples and processes them just steps from the orchard. Trevor Baker, co-founder of Noble Cider, is eager to show off the new apple press line that turns fresh apples into juice that he ferments at his cidery.
Enloe and Baker met at a Blue Ridge Apple Growers event and quickly discovered their shared love of apples. “I got to talking to Trevor and my initial conversation was if I could sell him any apples. And then over the next year we talked a little bit and then had them out here and discovered they were good good folks to work with and kicked the tires on joining forces like this,” Enloe says.
Baker remembers the first time he set foot on Lewis Creek Farm. He saw how Noble Cider could grow from this partnership, and he also had a vision of how cider could strengthen ties in the local food system.
“I was thinking beyond my own business and thinking about our regional economy as a whole. I think the more diversification we can get in our agricultural products and value-added products that come from here, it’s going to benefit everyone. Those forward thinking growers like Trey and Lewis Creek, those are the guys that are going to realize some good capital gains,” Baker says.
“That was one of one of our real goals in all of this was not only to provide a place for some apples that we normally couldn’t sell as fresh apples, but also to keep some of that money local. We can use some of those apples we would normally send to a juice plant in New York or in Michigan and keep them here,” Enloe says.
“We want to provide for our local workforce, and then also source apples from our neighbors. We’ve tried to pay a little bit better price than what they would normally send up North somewhere. So that kind of incentivizes them to keep the apples here locally so we can get more desirable apples. It keeps more money in the growers’ pocket as well,” Enloe says.
As Enloe and Baker work to improve the local food system, they’re also improving the orchard itself. The best varieties for cider are often different than the varieties that are best eaten fresh. So the farmer and cider maker planted a section of the orchard that’s full of cider apples. Some varieties, like Roxbury Russet, harken back to colonial America. Others varieties originated in France or England.
Many of these apples are uncommon in Henderson County, so it was a bit of a gamble to try something new. Enloe points out that starting an apple orchard is a 20-40 year commitment, and it was important to him to ease into the new partnership.
So far the experiment is working and most of the cider trees are thriving. Noble Cider is growing, too. The cidery announced it will open a restaurant in 2019. The apple mash from the cider-making process will feed the cattle at Morgan Branch Farms, and that beef will be served at the restaurant. Learn about more local partnerships in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide.
Aired: October 15, 2018