Growing Vancouver Island Cidery gives back to the community

Janet Docherty & Rick Pipes, Merridale Cidery

At Cowichan Valley’s Merridale Estate Cidery, they are passionate about a lot of things, but around the holidays there is one priority above all others: celebrate community and give back.

“It’s about taking care of our own back yard so to speak. It’s our basic philosophy of our company, “says Janet Docherty who owns Merridale Cidery with her husband Rick Pipes.

They open doors, allowing the local community to enjoy a holiday walk through the orchard and courtyard.  Along a path called Candy Cane Lane, guests meet Frosty, Rudolph, Santa and the elves.

Janet and Rick also reach out to community through Merridale’s limited released Yuel Fuel — a cider created in partnership with local radio station, the Zone.  Net proceeds from sales will go to the Zone’s TLC fund for kids, a Vancouver Island charity.

“We thought, why not give to the kids, when they need it the most. We can make a difference. We don’t just support our community, we want to be part of it,” says Janet.

Janet and Rick bought the 20-acre apple orchard in 1999. It included 16 acres of apples in need of TLC and only two employees. They started selling cider out of a pop cooler.

Neither of them had any background in cider making, distilling, agriculture or the food industry, but what they lacked in experience they made up for with business savvy.

Now they have a restaurant, a thriving wedding business, even two yurts for people who want to go glamping. In high season they employ about 45 people.

“We always thought it was going to work,” says Janet. “It’s not an option to fail, that’s the biggest part of it. When you maintain a positive attitude and stay positive with the people around you, it will work. You will find a way to get there. You have to believe in it whole heartedly.”

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