A GROUP of entrepreneurial farmers in a small Ceredigion village are putting their unpicked apples to good use.
For the farmers in Pisgah, the sight of thousands of unpicked or windfall apples in local gardens at the end of every summer presented the perfect opportunity to set up a new self-financing eco-friendly business.
The group organised its first major collection of apples in late summer 2020, which they then pressed into 1,000 bottles of ‘Seidr Pisgah Chi’, a traditional dry cider that completely sold out within just two weeks last year.
Last summer’s apples were picked in September, and are now fermenting in 30-litre barrels, in readiness for bottling this spring, and more apple trees and orchards have been planted, ready for the coming summer’s crop.
“Excitingly, this is a business ripe for further growth and development,” says Elen Pencwm, who supported the budding entrepreneurs through her role as a Farming Connect Agrisgôp leader.
Agrisgôp is one of Farming Connect’s most successful personal development programmes, which brings together like-minded farmers and foresters to progress business ideas.
Farming Connect is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra Wales, and funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
In early 2019, two farming brothers, Sion and Rhodri Davies, had begun to sound out some of their farming friends and neighbours about finding a new common interest, or setting up a new venture.
The group of five would often meet up in the local pub, and the conversation would inevitably turn to what they could do.
They all wanted to put their energies into a project that would excite and challenge them – something that would enable each of them to play to their own strengths, yet provide the opportunity to learn new skills, too.
“We originally thought that just enjoying the experience of working together with a common aim would be sufficient reward, but thanks to Agrisgôp, considerable support from Aberystwyth University and an expanding number of loyal customers, we can all see the potential for growth, which in itself is spurring us on,” says group member Dilwyn Williams – who, when he’s not tending to the sheep on his local smallholding, is a skilled bookbinder with the National Library of Wales.
The group met with experts, including Chris Charters, chair of the Welsh Cider and Perry Society, as well as plant breeder and geneticist Dr Danny Thorogood from IBERS.
Under the watchful eye of the Gogerddan experts, the group learned how to process, rack and bottle their new artisan cider.
They also applied for an all-important alcohol licence.
By Christmas, they were ready to target pubs and restaurants, as well as locals keen to sample the new beverage.
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