Presque Isle Farm is a small centennial farm in Posen, MI. As a certified organic farm, co-owners Molly and Dion Stepanski are dedicated to providing nourishing food in a sustainable manner to their local community. This family run farm business finally received certification to bottle and sell their heirloom ciders in 2020. With 10 different varieties bottled, Presque Isle Cider recently entered the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition for the first time with amazing results!
We chatted with Molly to get the details about her business’ transition into the cider making world:
What gave you the idea to start producing cider?
Dion and I have always gravitated towards drinking cider. So, when some friends (including folks from Korson Farms in Suttons Bay) invited us to their annual grindfest one fall 6 years back, we were immediately hooked. We loved the whole process and it fit well into our farming model. We can do more cider pressing and bottling in the fall and winter when the produce side of things finally slows a bit. We’ve also been investing in and growing a small orchard here at the farm that will hopefully give us the volume of apples we need after a few more years of growth and maintenance.
How do you manage making cider and running a farm at the same time? How do the businesses complement each other?
It’s for sure a labor of love. Dion primarily acts as the production manager for all things farm and cider, and I’m sales and marketing and whatever else needs to be done. This can be anything from getting licensed to sell cider, to harvesting, washing and packing 200# of greens a week, to doing all our restaurant and retail deliveries. The businesses have been a great complement to each other because we could leverage all of our farm branding and customer base that we’ve built up in the last 6 years once the cider was released.
Presque Isle Farm has built trust with a lot of customers through our transparency in our growing practices, inviting CSA members to a yearly farmfest with music and all locally sourced food (at least pre-covid), and consistent quality and customer service. These same customers know we are hard core about the quality of anything we produce, and the cider has already found a small niche of devoted followers in our neck of the woods. The cider has also allowed us to diversify our business so that first, we have other revenue during the off season of growing, and second, as we get older and farming gets harder on our bodies, we’ve got another line of revenue.
What is your cidermaking process like?
Presque Isle Farm focuses on minimal intervention, naturally fermented cider. We currently source all of our apples from small farms across northern Michigan. We use a combination of cider specific apple varieties, classic American apples, and wild foraged apples. Presque Isle Farm Cider is made of only apples. The cider is fermented until all the residual sugar is gone, resulting in a mostly dry experience. These are not the sweet ciders you typically find on the grocery store shelves. Our ciders are made in the traditional English and New England style and focus on cider specific apples that can bring a complexity equal to wine.
What is the hardest part about making cider?
For us, the most difficult aspect of this endeavor is finding the right kind and volume of apples every year. As the cider industry continues to grow, more apple farmers are recognizing the benefit in growing not just culinary apples, but apples specifically for cider. Our orchard, which is hopefully expanding into another three acres soon, won’t give us the volume we need for 3 or more years.
What surprised you the most?
We’ve been really surprised by how many people just adore the cider. We often heard that no one in Michigan wants dry cider, but we’ve found it to be the opposite. Once people open up their palates, they’re often hooked.
How does a business enter a cider competition? What is being judged?
We’ve been trialing cider varieties for the last 5-6 years here at the farm. We were just licensed last year and began our first year of professional production. So, 2021 was the first year we entered any competitions. We focused on the closest one that also draws most of the big Michigan cidermakers, the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP). We entered six and medaled or placed in class for all 6. Each cider is judged on: the bouquet/aroma, appearance, and flavor/mouthfeel.
What awards did you win?
• Farmhouse – Gold (2nd Place in Class) – Traditional Cider – Dry
• Kingston & Wild – Gold – Heritage Cider – Dry
• Black & Gold – Silver – Traditional Cider – Dry
• Blanc – Silver – Modern Cider – Dry
• Bulmer’s & Black – Silver – Traditional Cider – Dry
• Golden Russet – Bronze – Wood Aged Cider
( Learn about the GLINTCAP Style Guidelines here )
Where can people currently purchase your cider?
Right now, the cider is only sold at the Alpena Farmers Market on Saturdays, and at Jimmie Garant’s and Cracker Barrel Party Store in Alpena. We’re hoping to expand into the NW Michigan/Grand Rapids area most likely first, as people know it as a cider region.
Learn more about Presque Isle Farm & Cider at http://www.presqueislefarm.com/
Emma Beauchamp is the Communications Manager for Taste the Local Difference.