Not certified organic.
After we started making fresh, raw, unpasteurized, organic apple juice, we noticed a trend. Many of our customers for fresh cider were home brewers and wanted our fresh organic apple cider to make small batches of hard apple cider. Then we noticed that these same brewers were entering their brews in the Minnesota State Fair brewing competitions and regularly winning first, second, and third place. We realized we had something special here, so we decided to jump in to the world of making hard apple cider.
In 2014 we started the process of federal and state licensing. Simultaneously we started building the cider room, acquiring the production equipment and developing our formulation. [Note: We also researched the process for having our hard cider be certified organic as well, but opted to not pursue organic certification at this point in time. Therefore, please note that our Yellow Belly product line is not certified organic.]
We began to experiment with different yeasts and fermenting techniques to get our formulation just right. Then we began the journey to scale up to a much larger operation. With all of the licensing and credentials in hand, all of the inspections complete, we pushed the “go” button and never looked back.
While our organic apple orchard is growing fast, we don’t have enough apples for the amount of cider we want to make. So we support other apple growers in Minnesota to get the freshest apple juice possible. We buy from orchards where we watch every apple get pressed into juice just hours before it is put into our tanks for hard cider production on our farm.
Debbie’s twin brother, Dan Humphreys has an incredibly creative mind. Plus he has decades of experience with brand development for companies large and small ranging from fortune 500 corporations to our little farm. Inspired by our farm name, Sapsucker Farms, Dan created the name Yellow Belly, and the fun label design that grabs attention and makes you smile.
When the cider was ready, a mobile bottler came to our farm, filled up the 22 oz. bomber bottles and topped them off with a bright yellow cap. After pasteurizing to assure that all of the yeast was no longer active, the bottles were labeled, then off to sell to the market.
February 16, 2015 was the first day of sales and it has been enthusiastically received by retailers and consumers alike. Our list of stores where Yellow Belly is sold continues to expand and is updated regularly. We are overwhelmed by all of the positive response we have received. In December 2015 we partnered with Bernick’s in St. Cloud to further expand our distribution, and in January 2016 we won our first award.
Recognizing the growing demand for Minnesota apples, we turned to our neighbors and have started a network of apple growers right here in East Central Minnesota. In September 2015 we held an apple-growing workshop here at Sapsucker Farms. The keynote speaker was Peter Moe, Interim Director and Director of Operations and Research at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and Horticulture Research Center. He gave an inspiring talk about growing apples in zone 3, followed by a tour of our orchard. It was a full house with 70 enthusiastic participants. A second workshop was held in February 2016 at Mora High School with keynote speaker David Wildung of the U of M North Central Research and Outreach Center, who specializes in growing apples up in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. 95 potential growers attended.
Above: September 2015 workshop at Sapsucker Farms, pictured is Terry Salmela, U of M Extension Master Gardener Coordinator for Kanabec and Pine Counties, as he is getting ready to introduce keynote speaker Peter Moe
Below: September 2015 workshop tour of Sapsucker Farms orchard, pictured is Peter Moe with the megaphone.
Below: February 2016 apple growing workshop at Mora High School with David Wildung.
Thank you to all who have helped us on this journey and for all of your support. Buy local!