Local cidery takes a sustainable approach to help the community
“Approximately 4,000 pounds of apples that would have been thrown away, have been used to make the cider,” says Bruce McKinlay, Owner and Founder of the Valley Cider Company.
The Cowichan Green Community, CGC, is a non-profit organization that has been operating out of Duncan for the past 20 years. Their mission is simple: cultivate food, community, and resilience.
Every season, there are thousands of fruits and vegetables that go to waste. From small orchards that may not have enough hands to pick all their fruit to someone’s backyard that has too many trees and not enough time for picking, there is an abundance of fruit ripe for cider-making. The Cowichan Green Community will come in and save the day, and the fruit.
In comes the Valley Cider Company, a company that has similar values as the CGC surrounding community and sustainability. The Cider Company is a 27-acre farm run by a small group of passionate workers whose goal is to produce a handcrafted farm-to-bottle cider that helps celebrate the apple’s natural evolution and potential. Using these uniquely flavoured apples, that otherwise would have gone to waste, the cider creates a delicious and sustainable alternative to wasted fruit.
McKinlay describes the importance and quality of using the community’s apples, stating, “The best apples come from trees that are not really coddled too much. The stress put on the apple trees results in not only a stronger tree but also the character of fruit it produces; just like people, the older it gets, the more unique and robust it becomes.”
The cider, aptly named the Community In-cider, can be described as a lighter type of classic cider that also uniquely includes fir pines which gives it a very subtle note of a citrus sensation.
McKinlay explains the inspiration that led to the addition of the fir tips, saying, “The grand firs, which are the huge great trees that we have surrounding the orchard, seem to symbolize the guardians of the orchard as they are the sentinels that protect the orchard from the worst of the weather. I was tasting the cider and staring at the wind that was blowing the larger trees. And I was staring as the little fir tips blowing way high up in the tree and I had one of those moments, ‘I wonder if the trees are telling me something’.”
As the cider is produced from apples provided by the community, it seemed only fitting for these two like-minded groups to distribute a portion of their profits back into the community through social and food support programs.
The CGC also has multiple food-safe programs, including the Garden Pantry Thrift Store and the Green Store. These aim to provide food and supplies for individuals in need of support.
Another one of the non-profit’s initiatives is the FruitSave program. It is led by volunteers who harvest backyard fruit that would have otherwise gone to waste. The collected fruit is divided between the homeowners, the volunteers, the Valley’s numerous emergency food providers, and the Green Community’s programs.
“We distribute the food to about 15 to 20 service providers which include all the local food banks, shelters, soup kitchens, Indigenous communities, schools, daycares, basically whomever needs it the most,” says Nathan Harben, Project Manager for the Cowichan Green Community, describing what an average day for the Feed Recovery Project looks like.
For anyone who is interested in responsibly enjoying an adult beverage that is ethically and sustainably sourced, you can find more information about the cider and where to find it on their website.