Ringmer Community Orchard, under the guidance of Common Cause director Katharine Finnegan, has become a thriving orchard over the years, with many varieties of apple trees and other fruits. Flourish came into being in September 2015, and one of the first tasks of project manager Emma Chaplin was to create and carry out a three-day course based around these apples for the class of fifteen Plumpton College supported interns.
This Emma did in consultation with apple expert Peter May, Plumpton supported interns course leader Mel Simmonds, and others.
This took place at the end of September at Ringmer Community Orchard. The day was run by Peter May, supported by Emma and several Plumpton support staff, including Mel and Nikki Sanger. During the day, Peter talked to the group about how apples grow, how many different varieties there are, plus offering advice on safe handling of heavy items. From Peter, the interns learnt how to pick, grade and weigh the Red Falstaff apples. There were also discussions about what working in the fruit picking industry might entail and what qualities you might want for such roles.
This took place at the beginning of October at Brighton Permaculture in Stanmer Park. Peter May and Emma Chaplin brought along the apples the students had picked at Ringmer Orchard. Stephan Gehrels of Brighton Permaculture led the day, demonstrating and supporting the interns in how to wash, macerate and press the apples using the hydropress. He also answered any questions the students had about the process.
Everyone tasted the freshly pressed juice - and said they thought it was delicious. The interns poured half of it into cartons. A passer-by bought a carton of it from intern Gemma.
Stephan talked about bottling apple juice, adding flavours, what labels are added. He also showed the interns the cider press. Then the interns bottled the rest of the juice into 19 bottles, which they then pasteurised, to make the juice longer-lasting. The interns took these home with them.
The day ended with a Stanmer orchard tour by Peter May.
This was some of the feedback we got after days one and two: "Grading of apples, picking and storing was really interesting." "The orchard tour was really good". "The fresh apple juice was much better than shop bought". "Learning the different names of the apples was interesting". "I liked learning how to make juice and tasting it". "The people were passionate about their project, this was contagious".
The interns went back to college to design labels for their bottles with their resident expert graphic design tutor. They had advice and examples from Stephan and Emma about what the bottle labels needed to include, and graphic designer Neil Gower (who has designed beer bottles, amongst many other things) contributed advice on good label design.
This was split into two. The interns came by bus to Lewes at the beginning of December with Nikki Sanger and Mark Gilbert as support staff plus others, where Emma met them off the bus.
They visited the Elephant and Castle pub, went upstairs to the function room where landlord Huw Jones spoke to them about running a pub, how he came to be a pub landlord, what jobs there are in pubs and what qualities you need to do them.
The students had prepared a large number of questions for Huw, which he was able to answer very helpfully. Sara Grisewood from Pleasant Stores came and joined the group and told them about her local vegetarian cafe/shop business. Then Huw and Sara tasted the apple juice, gave incredibly positive feedback about the taste and how good a product it is. They said there were so many factors that would work for them as buyers – the fact that it's made by Plumpton interns, is limited edition, from a single variety of apples grown locally, that no chemicals used in the process or used on the apple trees. They said they would definitely stock it if they could.
They also explained how much they’d pay for a bottle, and how much they’d charge if they were selling it on.
They gave feedback on all the label designs the students had come up with.
Sara talked about products she stocks and, on the way back to the bus stop, the interns dropped into Pleasant Stores, where she showed them some labels of her drinks.
Final half day
The next day, Emma went to Plumpton College and talked to the students about Twitter – what it is, how to use it effectively, how to be safe on Twitter. She answered questions about tweeting, then gave a handout on this. She also presented the interns with certificates of attendance for the whole three days of the apple-based course.
The final outcome of this project will be that the interns will work with the wine department at Plumpton to produce the labels, based on the best bits of an amalgam of designs. Watch this space for that.
The juice will be sold at the Plumpton College Christmas Fair, with all money raised going to Chestnut Tree Hospice.