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Considerations for Operating a Commercial, Non-HACCP Cider Mill in Vermont

 

 


 

 

Never For Sale...

 

So I make pretty good cider.  I give it to friends and family.   They like it, and people very often ask, "can I buy this?" The answer is always an unequivocal no, and they often persist even as I am giving it to them.   Sometimes folks get pretty worked up, telling me that they could market the hell out of it and make me a pile of dough.

I know people who make really good cookies.  I wouldn't, however, insist that they risk their livelihood to sell them commercially.  There is the significant startup cost, including investment in a commercial kitchen and the licensing involved there. Then there is the production, marketing, and distribution, all of which need to be done while not earning a paycheck elsewhere.  It can be a really tough row to hoe.

In making cider, imagine that process, but much more complex.  A cookie baker doesn't have to grow the wheat for their flour, or at least source really hard-to find stuff.  They can make cookies all year 'round, where the cidermaker has to make the full season's crop once per year, and must invest in the real estate (fermenters, controlled temperature space, bottle storage) required to hold it all. 

My orchard, at full production, might yield 500 gallons of cider.   This orchard is manageable on a small scale without the need for lots of expensive equipment.  I can ferment up to 100 gallons in my cellar.  So I would need to develop capacity for 400 gallons which I might sell at a wholesale price of say $20 per gallon or $8000 per year.  Subtract orchard management costs, capital investment (ALL of my equipment would need to be bigger), cidermaking inputs (we'd be talking about over $2000 in bottles and labels alone) and my time, and I'm losing money.

Finally, one beast that the cidermaker has to deal with is the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, amongst other federal and state regulators.  Simply put, making alcohol of any kind for sale is not an easy proposition, and after (or really before) solving any issues with production, one must meet the requirements of regulation and taxation.  Sorry, not interested.

One final note is that I am not at all interested in making a fun hobby a risky venture.  I like my regular job and will make my living there.  If you want to buy my cider, sorry, ain't ever gonna happen.  If I have enough stock and I feel generous, I might give you a bottle.  If you're really insistent, get yourself a carboy or three, stop by my place in late fall and I'll sell you the juice to make your own. Who knows, yours might be so good I'll be begging you to sell it to me.

 

TB

 

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All material Copyright Terence Bradshaw 2006-2013

terryb at lostmeadowvt dot com