They may be relatively new to the booze business, but the Frieds are no strangers to farming.
Halee Fried and her husband Jeff are second-generation farmers in the Armstrong area. And, after 30 years in the business, Halee said she was looking for creative ways to connect the community to its food source.
Housed in an iconic North Okanagan barn, originally built in 1986, Fried’s Farmstrong Cider Company aims to do just that.
“We were looking for an avenue to connect with people. We were looking for something fun in agriculture to connect with customers,” Halee said. “People have really disconnected to where their food comes from, and it’s really important to us as farmers that people feel that they can approach us. And what better way to have a good conversation about our food and our local food culture than over a bottle of cider that’s been made right here in Armstrong.”
After purchasing the property in 2016, they renovated the barn and officially opened its doors to the public last June. Now, nearly one year and more than 10,000 litres of juice later, the Frieds are working overtime to launch for their second cider season.
But, before the rustic-meets-modern-chic tasting room can open to customers in May, Halee said they have about 20,000 litres of cider to bottle and keg.
“You move juice all the time here, whether it’s through a pump or in your hands with a bottle,” Halee laughed and noted that about 80 per cent of the year’s estimated 25,000 litres will be bottled and ready to drink before the season begins.
“We’re trying our first hand this year at kegging, so we’re going to have cider on tap this year,” Halee said. “It’s going to slow down a little bit of the bottling for us.”
Currently in the lineup is a dry apple cider, sweet apple cider, and a pear cider. These fruits are largely sourced from the family’s farm, Halee said, with the exception of certain varietals that come from neighbouring farmers.
“What we hopefully have coming up yet this season is we’re trying for a rhubarb and a harvest blend,” Halee said. “We’re not going to have endless amounts of different styles of cider, our goal is to sort of keep things simple and really do simple well so that we have a consistent product.”
However, Halee said that they will plant three-acres of new apples this April.
As Farmstrong Cider Company continues to grow and evolve, with a target of 50,000 litres of juice in the coming years, Halee said it’s important for the family to stay true to their farming roots.
“There’s so much mass-production of food, and yes there’s a large percentage of the population that we have to feed, but I just like the close, personal feel of quality food coming from local farmers. I really like knowing my customers, and when I buy a product I like knowing my farmer, so we source as much as we can right from the people we know,” she said.
“We have so much selection here in the Okanagan. We’re so fortunate for what types and varieties of fruit we have. So, we don’t need to go far. We just need to find out where to source it.”