If you visit Kristen Needham at her Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse in Saanichton north of Victoria, you’ll notice her sidekick. Kingston, her little black dog, never leaves her. He was named after the Kingston Black apple which is used for English hard cider. It’s one of the apples that Needham uses to make her award winning organic cider.
Needham’s family has a history of ranching and orchard farming. She bought land to start her cidery in 2004 and has 1,300 apple trees that produce 50 varieties of organically grown apples. Annual cider production is upwards of 9,000 cases, up from 7,000 last year. The number of employees is also on the rise – 30 this year compared to 20 in 2014.
“We’ve had more staff than we’ve ever had. Everyone is happy to be here. I’m so excited”
When Needham started making cider, she didn’t imagine that she would be satisfying a thirst for a drink that would be making a big comeback. In North America, cider orchards were cut down during prohibition. Lately cider has been enjoying a resurgence as craft beer drinkers try something new. Sea Cider has a tasting room and also hosts weddings and corporate events.
“People are becoming more attentive to where their food and drink comes from. They want to know where and how their cider is produced.”
Maintaining her cider’s quality means taking time and producing less volume than larger companies. That’s one of the challenges faced by Needham. She sometimes sells out of a product. While it can be hard keeping up with demand, Needham knows the importance of being on the front lines.
“I’m happy when I can be involved firsthand with production. With the growth, I can’t do it as much. Every chance I get, I try to be involved with the cider making. I never want to lose that.”
That part of the job is a little easier thanks to her smallest employee. Having her dog Kingston alongside her makes for the perfect excuse to get out for a walk and to see what’s happening on her ten acre farm.