Neil MacDonald is a self described “man of the soil”. He co-launched Orchard Pig Cider in 2004. His specialty is apple growing and the primary process of the cidermaking at Orchard Pig Cider.
I spoke with Neil while at CiderCon in Portland Oregon.
Neil was granted a scholarship from the Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust which has helped him hone in on his apple growing passion and helped him travel around the world. Click on this link to read about his project: http://www.nuffieldscholar.org/scholars/neil-macdonald/
Neil uses what is a called a “Bush Orchard” in the UK, which works well with the mechanics of harvesting within high density orchards for a maximum harvest.
What is a bush tree?
- It is a free standing root stock. A 111, 106, or M25. Neil’s farm is currently doing some trials with an A2, B118, P18 root stock. Anything smaller than a 111 or 106 are not strong enough to handle the mechanical harvesting.
- The trees are growing 18 feet tall….And they join up like a high hedge.
- The width of the row is 18 feet wide. If you limit the row size it will limit the use of mechanical harvesting.
The cost structure for maintaining this type of orchard Neil says, “Is considerably less than a high density orchard.”
Neil discusses what is required when putting in a 100 acres of apple trees per man with his system of orchard production.
- 1 man
- 1 tractor
- 1 sprayer
- 1 harvester
- 1 mechanical pruner
All this equals – extensive commodity producers!
What does Neil see as the two main objectives for growing fruit?
- Price – the farmer receives in payment for the crop yield
- Yield – the amount of fruit that can be grown.
From this vantage the orchardist looks at the consumer, which in this case is the cidermaker and meets exactly what the cidermaker looking for:
- Apple juice quanity
Mechanical Harvesting in a nutshell
The process is broken down a bit in this chat as follows… but really Ciderville it is best to listen to Neil to get the full scope of what he is describing.)
- Allow the fruit to fall on the ground, which insures that the fruit is fully ripe, the sugars are fully turned and the starches are gone are from it.
- Allowing the apples to fall on the ground encourages the natural yeast for the first ferment.
- Early fermentation comes from the yeast in the orchards.
- The secondary from the fabric of the building where it is fermenting, rather than using cultured yeast.
Fun cider Facts discussed in this chat:
- Only 1% of alcohol by volume and all pathogens are gone. So why not allow apples to drop on the ground and then harvest?
- Neil chats: Rats in cider? And the not uncommon addition of a leg of mutton into a cider, for a short period of time.
What does Neil note about the cidermakers here in the US?
They are coming from it as either a brewer or winemaker and as such approach it from 2 completely different paths.
- Winemakers are very clean stylistically
- Brewers approach it from the hop it up perspective.
US cidermakers have a lot to learn from our neighbors to the east and chats like this one with Neil MacDonald will certainly help us more forward to create a sustainable cider trade.
Orchard Park Farms
England, BA4 6SF
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org let him know you heard about this internship via Cider Chat
Follow Neil on Twitter @neilorchards
Follow Orchard Pig Cider on Twitter @orchardpig
Apprenticeship at Orchard Park Farms go to 39:40 minutes in on this podcast to listen to the description of the intern position. It ends roughly at 41:30.
- 25 or older
- scientific background is a good quality to have
- responsible for Orchard trials.
Neil quotes I loved from this chat:
Make a good quality apple cider. If it is good it will stay. If it is poor you will lose sales and it will fall away.
Quality and drinkability…I use quaffability a lot.
Every orchard is a permanent experiment.
Are you thirsty for some UK ciders? Look no further than Cider Cellars!
Thank you Cider Cellars for Sponsoring this episode with Neil MacDonald!
For Sale: Mobile Juicing Trailer
Contact Casey Oberg, Ole Swede – email@example.com