Welcome, from Shepton Montague! If you have never been here, you’ll find us betwixt Castle Cary, Wincanton and Bruton.
For 26 years I have farmed organically, and longer overall. A century ago there were two orchards here. One faded to
nothing, the other still has five gnarled unproductive trees. The other “nothing” orchard was cleared and replanted with 50 (mostly cider) trees in 1996. These are generally older “heritage” varieties which are found in many of the more mature Somerset orchards. This small orchard has delivered much apple juice and cider. At present there is another major source of apples, coming from many local gardens, schools, or small orchards where people have no use for the apples. I am repurposing some of them! I appreciate I am also denying the army of critters in the soil a meal. None of this would work without a great band of seasonal work on many tasks, from planting trees, keeping the orchards from being overgrown, to the all-important harvest and processing of apples. Two years ago we planted 515 new trees. These are all dessert or
cooking apple varieties. It has been challenging to get them to grow as deer have been ravaging them! Guards that would stop them are massive, and too expensive, so there are added costs in pruning back the affected trees, with a consequent delay to these ones producing fruit. That is a task we are about to undertake, in some cases taking the stem down lower than it was when the tree was planted, but above the root stock, hopefully enabling it to push up a new vibrant tree,
and the deer will go and munch something elsewhere. The need to keep weeds/grass at bay will continue for longer than initially planned and also watering if we have a dry summer. By their third year most trees should be strong enough and well enough rooted not to need so much cosseting. Being in an area with many cider apple trees without anyone using
their fruit, I decided to focus on dessert and cooking varieties for the new orchard. I planted with minimal cost, and it doesn’t look like many of the bigger growers’ new orchards. Mine comes with low establishment costs. A full-scale new orchard could easily cost £7,000/acre to establish. All the juicing and cider production is definitely artisan – it happens in my garage! We set up the equipment to juice, bottle and pasteurise the juicing apples. There are successive harvesting sequences as different varieties ripen at differing times. Once all the juice is bottled we divert attention to the cider varieties and setting fermentation underway. www.applesjuice.co.uk/

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