Bernie's apple cider is delicious and his story is nothing short of inspiring because it reads like something I would do with coffee or at least the way I think about farming practices, quality and passion for a product.
A collective purchased Pomo Tierra Ranch in 1971 to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The 80-acre hillside parcel in the Anderson Valley now known as Pomo Tierra was the first property they looked at. It came complete with a late 1800s farmhouse, historic farm structures, rights to a year-round spring on a neighboring property, and, of course, a turn-of-the-century Gravenstein apple orchard. Bernie came out a few months later and fell completely in love with the place. The rest of the story is history that you can taste in the cider at the shop.
From the Pomo Tierra Ranch story:
"Unlike many apple growers, Bernie refuses to tear out the ancient Gravensteins in his orchard until they are truly on their last legs — basically falling over. Whereas the areas around Sebastopol and the Anderson Valley used to be home to many Gravenstein orchards, now there are only a handful of growers. Slow Food USA reports that, “During the past six decades, Sonoma County’s Gravenstein orchards have declined by almost 7,000 acres and are currently down to 960 acres.” There are many reasons for this, among them the fact that Gravensteins do not store or ship well, making them unattractive to larger growers, and that many historic orchards have been torn out and replaced with wine grapes, a higher-value crop.
Bernie also differs from many apple growers because of his dry-farming practices. He waters his new trees for their first five years to get them well established. Beyond that, he doesn’t irrigate in his orchards at all, relying on the ability of the trees to send down long taproots to find water at the water table. In addition to conserving water, Bernie’s dry-farming practices produce fruit with a very intense flavor. Bernie attests, “The hot summer days and cool nights of Mendocino County, along with our dry farming practices, help us produce some of the finest apples in the country.”
In comparison to the “sleep when you’re dead” mentality of growers on many farms I’ve visited, Bernie has a more relaxed way about him. While maintaining a 20-acre orchard and running a small business is no small task for one person, I can’t help but think that the collective approach to land ownership has, in this case, taken a bit of the pressure off – not just in terms of sharing mortgage expenses, but also in terms of having larger community support for farm projects as well as everyday life tasks like cooking and cleaning. The community support here makes for an inspiring model."
This is exactly why we have chosen to carry the fruit of his labor at the shop. He thinks outside the box, is thoughtful in his practices and makes a heck of a good product to boot. Whenever we think about bringing something tasty into the store we look at it from different angles and make sure we can connect with it in a genuine way. Bernie's cider was easy. He is a modest man, he usually just says thanks and wishes me a great day. The simplicity of it is the best part about it. He cares for his orchard, his land and makes and bottles the cider and sells it at the farmers market. Such a simple thing, and yet so damn tasty. Thanks Bernie!