Comparing Apples to Apples: Participatory Research for Artisanal Cider Producers

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2017: $29,999.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2019
Grant Recipient: The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Michelle Miller
University of WI - CIAS

Information Products


  • Fruits: apples


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, grafting, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: value added
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships

    Proposal abstract:

    Over the past 5 years, hard cider has been the fastest growing craft beverage in the U.S. With increasing prices for cider apples, less focus on the fruit’s cosmetic appearance, and new community ties to a local beverage, the emerging cider industry offers opportunities for increasing economic, environmental, and social sustainability in the North Central Region. Unfortunately, inadequate information about cider apple varieties and market preferences limit growers ability to tap cider’s potential.

    Our project will identify 40 apple varieties with potential for sustainable cider production based on the knowledge of experienced grower partners.  Cider properties of each variety will be assessed through laboratory and sensory evaluation.  We will then identify market preferences for specific cider properties through focus group research and cooperation with the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative. Results of the study will provide an “artist’s palette” of promising cider apple varieties, and it will define market preferences that growers and cider makers can use to optimize their blends.

    Project outreach will include grower-friendly research reports and presentations at conferences and field days. We will also sow the seeds for future, participatory experimentation through a workshop where we graft and disseminate the preferred cider apple varieties to additional growers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Identify 40 apple varieties with strong potential for sustainable cider production based on grower knowledge, experience, and preferences.
    • Evaluate the cider properties of each cider apple variety through laboratory testing and participatory sensory evaluation.
    • Identify consumer and industry stakeholder preferences for specific cider properties through focus group research and cooperation with the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative.
    • Disseminate findings through online outreach, conference presentations, and field days.
    • Sow the seeds for longer term participatory evaluation and collaboration through a scionwood exchange and grafting workshop that further propagates the preferred apple varieties.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.