- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

SHERWOOD, Ore. (AP) - Richard Hostetter wasn’t a farmer, but he knew the international investment game. He knew the big boys were increasingly favoring agriculture over the long haul. People have to eat, after all.

Arriving in Oregon in 2013 after 17 years in Tokyo, where he’d worked for big banks and investment houses, he searched for an opportunity. He figured he was too late to make money in Oregon blueberries or hazelnuts, and the wine industry likewise seemed over-populated.

When someone mentioned cider apples, his response was, “What the heck is that?”

“Initially, I wasn’t interested,” he said. “I didn’t think it had any legs.”

Research and due diligence convinced him otherwise. It quickly became apparent that hard cider was an industry on the rise. Cideries and cider pubs were popping up everywhere, especially in Portland, mimicking the rise of the craft beer industry. Membership in the Northwest Cider Association grew from 17 to 70 in the past three years.



And just like wine grapes, the apples that make the best hard cider are different than the ones people like to eat. The rush is on to provide the bittersweet varieties - including old English and French apples - that make the best hard cider.

There is, Hostetter discovered, “A mismatch between rapidly growing demand and slow growing supply.”

Which is how he came to plant 15,000 cider apple trees on three leased acres outside Sherwood, 20 miles south of Portland.

“I do believe there’s a big opportunity in cider apples,” he said. “I’ve rolled the dice fairly aggressively on this.”

In that sense, Hostetter, 47, represents a couple of truisms in Oregon agriculture. First, the emerging generation of farmers includes people new to the field but with other skills, experience or money. Second, Oregon’s agricultural diversity - the state grows 220 crops - opens doors to unexpected economic development.

Hostetter is engaged in a crash course on grafting, planting and growing fruit trees, all of which is complicated and costly. “Even the wood for grafting is worth a lot of money right now,” he said.

The biggest difficulty has been finding farmland to buy, with water rights, suitable soil and within striking distance of Portland. He has about two dozen varieties growing in close-packed nursery style on the leased land while he searches for property on which to transplant his orchard.

He believes the industry will achieve a high-quality niche once cider makers have a supply of proper apples.

Ten years from now, he hopes to be known as the owner of a sizable commercial cider apple business.

___

Information from: Capital Press, https://www.capitalpress.com/washington

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide