Harvest time at Farmgate Cider

GALETTA – Fall is here and for the Davies boys, it’s apple-picking time.

For family-run Farmgate Cider, it’s the time of year they find out just how much cider they will be able to make over the winter. It’s harvest time.

Farmgate Cider is in year number three of commercially producing cider under its brand – the Davies family has been producing their own cider for about 10 years. Last year Farmgate Cider produced 24,000 litres of cider under several different labels. This year Jacob Davies estimates they will almost double that with 40,000 litres.

The main orchard and processing facility is just outside of Galetta on Mohrs Road. Home to Jim and Brenda Davies. Jacob has a farm in Pakenham with a small orchard there as well.

“I have 500 trees in the infancy stage,” Jacob said.

Currently 30 per cent of the juice for their ciders comes from their own trees, but the goal is to change that number to 100.

“All the trees are planted, just waiting to grow,” Jacob said.

They are growing in operations as well. The family is currently moving a 100-year-old barn to the property. That’s right, moving. It will serve as the main processing facility for their cider.

“It’s a cool experience taking it down and it will be nice to have a dedicated facility,” Jacob said.

Moving buildings is a thing with the Davies. This will be the fourth building they have moved to the property. The first was the family home.

Around 21 years ago, Jim and Brenda purchased an 1857 stone farmhouse just outside of Carp and moved it 23 kilometres to their 75 acres on the banks of the Mississippi River.

“I remember labelling each stone as they took the farmhouse down,” Jacob said.

As time passed by, they made more and more use of the property.

“My dad always wanted an orchard,” Jacob said. “Stuart and I planted the trees in high school. Then we had too many apples to eat.”

The family had thought of a brewery in the past, but cider seemed like an achievable goal.

“Our best customers were people making beer,” Jacob said.

So, they went with cider.

“It’s fun,” Jacob said of the business. “The first year was testing to see if we could bake a go of it.”

“I don’t know if I believe in destiny, but it just came to us,” Jim said of the origins of the cider business.

The natural fit even includes the marketing of Farmgate Cider. Brenda is a well-known local artist and is responsible for the artwork on every Farmgate cider.

Now Farmgate Cider is sold at the Westboro, Carp and Ottawa farmers markets and almost 20 Ottawa area pubs as well as the Whitewater Region, Carleton Place, Almonte and Arnprior.

“The pubs seem to lie to have an option other than beer,” Jacob said.

Around half of their business is direct to customers including through their online sales as well.

With the-soon-to-be-built larger processing facility, Farmgate Cider is hoping to make a small dent in the agri-tourism industry. They’ve already hosted small events on the beautiful property.

“We do a bunch of tours, but we haven’t pushed that envelope as much until we get the place looking the way want to,” Jacob said. “It is a better way to connect to the customer.”

West Carleton Online’s visit to Farmgate Cider came almost right in the middle of harvest time. We dropped by Friday, Oct. 4 morning while Jacob, his father Jim and his younger brother Stuart were hard at work picking apples by hand.

Jim Davies hand-picks apples from that will some day have the honour of becoming Farmgate Cider. Photo by Jake Davies
Jim Davies hand-picks apples from that will some day have the honour of becoming Farmgate Cider. Photo by Jake Davies

Harvest usually starts the last week of August and can go in to November when the russet apples are ready. It’s an important time.

“It’s a lot more intense because what you pick is what you get,” Jim said. “It’s not like beer that you can make all year long.”

Their cider is hand crafted in small batches, using locally sourced ingredients. Farmgate Cider’s flagship offerings are refined, and well-balanced ciders made exclusively with apples from the estate orchard. They use a variety of different types of apples grown on the property such as Russet and northern spy apples, just to name two.

“It’s always about balance,” Jim says taking a quick break from harvesting. “That’s the whole trick about making a good cider.”

Jim says the family has probably made about 16 different labels over the 10 years “but some in low volumes.”

“People think it’s going to be really sweet, but it’s not,” Jim said. “It’s more like a wine.”

For more information on Farmgate Cider or to order your own, click here.