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Summary

Paul meets up with 6 people who’ve supported the SKIP Kickstarter at $65 or higher (including Alan Booker) to talk about getting permaculture produce into grocery stores.

Paul started approaching the question from the perspective of competing with, or outcompeting, commercial growers.  A big obstacle to this is the middle-men that commercial growers go through, as supermarkets really don’t want to talk to you if you’re not one.  They work with a bunch of growers to take their produce and mess with it (e.g. applying petroleum wax and stickers) before sending it off to shops.  All this stuff takes time, and often the best tasting produce doesn’t have much shelf life, so they’re not going to want it because it’ll rot before getting to the shelf.  Alan adds that as foods get more sugars and secondary metabolites in them, they get more resistant to fungi and molds.  Molds are thus most active when the produce has some, but not too much, nutrients in them, an inverted bell curve, if you will.

It might be better to take a different approach – instead of getting permaculture apples into shops, make different ways of getting apples to people.  Instead of driving miles to a supermarket that gets their produce from 400 miles away, get produce from your metaphorical backyard.   Meanwhile, going with the question can also yield good results – lower overheads for the growers alone will greatly improve their lives, and starting on the path of permaculture can bring them as much safety as the extra money that they’re bringing in.  Additionally, shorter supply chains mean fewer chances for them to break, also adding to safety, and lower costs.  

Relevant Threads

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pollinator
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It’s funny, when I read the title in my email I thought- what’s the point of even trying? The average grocery store customer isn’t going to care or even understand what a permaculture Apple IS.
So I’m glad it resolved to the idea of buying local instead of trying to reverse engineer a tangled process of marketing to the masses.
In my quest for unpasteurized cider, I have found many small local orchards that have u-pick days. I’m guessing any state where apples can grow has them. Some will be organic, some not, but it’s a start in the right direction. My current favorite is a 4 hour drive, so not exactly local, but the apples are amazing, and at $3 per pound, not outrageous. It sucks that apples have such a limited season, but they are fairly easy to store and preserve. For folks without enough land, or those of us too old to start an orchard and hope for it to produce much in our lifetime, it’s a good alternative!
 
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Another idea is to add value to the product. You can press the apples and preserve the juice with potassium sorbate then bottle it. Or pasteurised then add ascorbic acid. You can also make cider but there are a few hoops to sell alcohol. You could make cider vinegar and it will be much better quality than anything in a supermarket.
 
Julie Reed
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Steven Goodfellow wrote: You can also make cider but there are a few hoops to sell alcohol.


The orchard I currently drive to sells ‘raw’ cider, which will ferment, but would require special handling to do so. I buy it specifically because it’s not pasteurized, which means I can make either hard (fermented) cider, or vinegar with it. The best cider comes from a blend of apples, which they also have. So as long as it’s sold within a few days of pressing, alcohol laws won’t apply, but it still can easily become such. The bigger issue is actually the health department, which takes a dim view of unpasteurized products.
That is definitely value added to the drops (apples that fell to the ground) or otherwise less saleable apples. It would not pencil out using apples that could be sold, as a gallon of cider takes about 40-60 apples to make, and at even $1/lb for the apples (wholesale value) that becomes $15-20 a gallon before labor or bottle/labeling costs. I think anything over $10/gal for cider would be pushing it.
But overall, adding value beats losing value by having to sell wholesale to reach customers in a supermarket.
 
Steven Goodfellow
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Julie Reed wrote:

[b] I think anything over $10/gal for cider would be pushing it



The price here for cider vinegar is around $25-30/gal. At least double that for a quality hard cider

 
Julie Reed
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Holy cow! Well, I was referring to fresh cider, which is cheaper, and US prices, so there’s that. Cider vinegar is about $5/gal currently for store brands, twice that for ‘trendy’ brands. I don’t know anyplace that sells hard cider by the gallon. Bottled ciders are all over the map price wise. But that’s not the same product as hard cider.
 
Steven Goodfellow
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Wow that's so cheap, I'm in new zealand, and it's confusing converting currency and imperial measures at the same time. What do you mean bottled cider being different than hard cider?
 
Julie Reed
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Bottled cider is called hard cider, but the difference is that it is processed in the same way wine is made. Here’s a clip from Wikipedia under the heading of Cider:

“Steps taken before fermentation might include fruit or juice blending, titratable acidity and pH measurements and sometimes adjustments, and sulfur dioxide and yeast additions.Fermentation is carried out at a temperature of 4–16 °C (39–61 °F). This temperature would be low for most kinds of fermentation, but is beneficial for cider, as it leads to slower fermentation with less loss of delicate aromas. Fermentation can occur due to natural yeasts that are present in the must; alternately, some cider makers add cultivated strains of cider yeast, such as Saccharomyces bayanus.
During the initial stages of fermentation, there are elevated levels of carbon dioxide as the yeasts multiply and begin to break down the sugar into ethanol. In addition to fermentative metabolism of yeast, certain organoleptic compounds are formed that have an effect on the quality of cider, such as other alcohols, esters and other volatile compounds. After fermentation, racking occurs into a clean vessel, trying to leave behind as much yeast as possible. Shortly before the fermentation consumes all the sugar, the liquor is "racked" (siphoned) into new vats. This leaves dead yeast cells and other undesirable material at the bottom of the old vat. At this point, it becomes important to exclude airborne acetic bacteria, so vats are filled completely to exclude air. The fermenting of the remaining available sugar generates a small amount of carbon dioxide that forms a protective layer, reducing air contact. This final fermentation creates a small amount of carbonation. Extra sugar may be added specifically for this purpose. Racking is sometimes repeated if the liquor remains too cloudy.
Apple-based juice may also be combined with fruit to make a fine cider; fruit purées or flavourings can be added, such as grape, cherry, raspberry, or cranberry.
The cider is ready to drink after a three-month fermentation period, although it is more often matured in the vats for up to three years.”


By contrast, fresh cider allowed to sit in the fridge for a week starts to naturally ferment (“Fermentation can occur due to natural yeasts that are present in the must”), gets ‘fizzy’, and will develop an alcohol content of up to maybe 5%. That’s the original source of hard cider. The bottled stuff is essentially Apple wine, given the process used to make it.
 
Steven Goodfellow
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Oh I see what you mean. They are the same thing then.
 
Julie Reed
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Well... yes and no. They taste quite different. The way they get from apple to drinking is completely different. They are technically the same thing in that they both come from fermented apples. You could take an egg and hard boil it, or fry it over easy, and say they are both the same- a cooked egg. The person eating them might disagree. That’s the best analogy I can think of.
 
pollinator
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This year I will have my first 'own' apples. That's because I started renting a plot (allotment) and there are already two (different) apple trees on it (and a lot more, former renters did start following permaculture principles there). After listening the podcast the thought entered my mind 'what to do with all those apples?' I think I will make jars of apple butter (or apple sauce). And I will give away both fresh apples and apple butter. And then there is the 'apple juice pressing day' every year at the organic farm store, but I don't know if I can take all of my (surplus) apples there on my bicycle (so probably I'll ask someone with a car for help).
At the 'apple pressing day' they have a machine that puts the apple juice directly in 5 liter containers. Those containers are air-tight (like a plastic bag with a tap inside a box), so the juice remains fresh.
 
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