You may think that cider is just a man’s game—and the fact that the board of the U.S. Association of Cider Makers contains 10 men and just 1 woman would certainly seem to bear that out—but we’re here to tell you that there is a group of hard-working women advancing the craft in many different capacities. So what is it like to be a woman in the booming cider industry? We went to some industry leaders to find out.
Diane Flynt is a name that comes immediately to the minds of many in the industry. Apple grower and cider maker at Foggy Ridge Cider in Dugspur, Virginia, Diane is known for treating cider apple trees with individual loving care. She had this to say about being a woman in the industry, “Growing apples and fermenting cider requires a full toolkit of skills: technical skills in the cellar, horticultural knowledge, marketing know-how and business acumen. Anyone—male or female—who is energized by constant learning and challenges will find a worthy setting in the cider world. There are many stellar women wine makers, and women have a guiding hand with some of the best cider in the United States. I especially admire Autumn Stoscheck at Eve’s Cidery and Eleanor Leger at Eden Ice Cider.”
Dr. Carol Miles
On the other coast, Dr. Carol Miles heads the nation’s largest cider apple horticulture research program. Dr. Miles remains focused on quality of work, not gender, and holds her own in a male-dominated field using a balance of self-assurance and highly attuned listening skills. She has this to say to people who ask what women are doing for the cider industry: “I don’t see myself as a ‘woman in cider’ but rather I see myself as a researcher in cider. I am focused on trying to bring scientific method to the juice and cider sensory evaluations that our Washington State University program has been doing for many years, prior to my taking the lead. Additionally, I am focused on investigating and developing orchard systems that meet the needs of cider apple growers and the industry. For me, the biggest challenges are first that I don’t have a background in apple production let alone cider apple production. And I am grateful that the cider community is willing to work with me so that I can learn about cider while I am designing experiments that focus on cider apple production.”
She continues, “The second challenge is recognizing that as in all agricultural endeavors, many people in cider production choose to grow the crop in a particular way because of their personal cultural habits and not necessarily based on crop-efficiency data. I respect that crop production is not always about efficiency and that human culture is important. My goal is to help the two align as best as possible so that the cider industry can thrive and our growers and cider makers are successful.”
Also in Washington State is Nancy Bishop, a cider maker in Port Townsend who has earned a high level of respect for the fine products of Alpenfire Organic Hard Cider. Nancy was recently featured at an event called Sirens & Cider. The event, held at Capitol Cider in Seattle, honored women by pairing Alpenfire ciders with farm-to-table entrées by six local female chefs.
Immersed in this positive vibe, Nancy wanted to say the following in support of other women would-be cider makers and cider enthusiasts: “Cider has been maligned in history as a ‘woman’s’ drink and maybe that is why so many women are involved in the cider industry as producers or advocates. It has been amazing to see the way this ‘cider culture’ has grown over the last decade and I know that there is infinite room for women to bring their enthusiasm, experience and skill to the table. I have never felt any kind of boys’ club mentality amongst cider makers. I would love to see more women take up the pursuit of cider perfection. Sure, I guess there is satisfaction in making fun, flavored apple-based drinks, but that is not cider. Come on gals, let’s apply ourselves to finding or growing the perfect apples and fermenting for the complex flavor profiles found only in those apples. We have so many people making cider because it’s easy, but real cider is anything but easy and we need people with enough interest and respect for these apples to step up to the challenge and take cider to the next level.”
What more can we say? Cider’s future is bright and among cider makers is a sub-group of women who don’t necessarily see themselves as distinct from the men. Laura Cherry, of Dragon’s Head Cider on Vashon Island, Washington, said it this way: “I have found a collaborative industry full of both men and women that are very willing to share information, experience and advice whether it be about orchards, fermentation or distribution and sales. As the industry develops, my hope is that this type of environment continues so that we’re all supporting each other’s efforts to make the best ciders we can.” Despite the unassuming attitudes shared by all these leaders, it is clear that as female role models they deserve to be celebrated for what they are: inclusive, intelligent, bold and very accomplished.
Want us to feature other women leading the cider industry? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Laura Cherry photo: Ela Lamblin
- Nancy Bishop photo: Jen Lee Light
- Dr. Carol Miles photo: Holly Tennant
- Diane Flynt photo: Foggy Ridge Cider