PA Cider Guild 101: Who Are We?

Merriam-Webster defines a “guild” as “an association of people for mutual aid or the pursuit of a common goal.” This concept, begun in medieval times, is a way for a group, usually of craftspeople or merchants, to band together, share information and generally progress in their industry as a group.

The PA Cider Guild (PACG), established in 2014, is a trade organization founded specifically to bring together cidermakers, cideries, cider enthusiasts and associated businesses to create a united voice in the state of Pennsylvania. There are dozens of cideries and cider producers, with an annual economic impact in our great state of more than $25 million. In a rapidly growing industry, it’s essential that we are united, and staying relevant and competitive, in the ever-changing cider landscape.

Our mission is pretty straightforward: It’s our aim to to protect, promote, represent and educate our members and consumers, mainly through marketing, events and advocacy. Who are our members? We are lucky enough to count cider producers, apple growers, related businesses and cider enthusiasts among our ranks.

PACG’s goals include:

• Promoting the understanding and appreciation of cider grown in Pennsylvania.
• Helping producers navigate the systems within the state to advocate for legislative change.
• Coordinating events to develop the cider industry in Pennsylvania.
• Creating unity in the cider industry within Pennsylvania.
• Developing and delivering education programs, events and services to maintain quality standards in cidermaking and apple growing.

Cidermaking in Pennsylvania enjoys a tradition going back hundreds of years, and though our members’ histories are varied and diverse, our story starts in 2014.

Ben Wenk, of Adams County-based Ploughman Farm Cider, says he first remembers hearing about a meeting in the Ferguson Building at Penn State, University Park, to organize the Pennsylvania cider industry.

“We were still making our plans for our business, but I thought it was too important to miss,” Wenk remembered. “Not long after that, we officially created the PA Cider Guild and had our first official meeting at the Ag Center in Gettysburg. We’ve been getting this team of motivated industry persons together on a regular basis since then.”

Wenk says that for him, a seventh-generation fruit farmer at Three Springs Fruit Farm and the owner of Ploughman, the Guild’s main mission is to create and maintain a culture of cooperation and respect in the Pennsylvania industry. “We all have different goals and ambitions within our own cideries, but when we get together, we’re working together for a common goal. Every good cider made with Pennsylvania apples and bought in Pennsylvania benefits every member of this organization.”

Success in that realm, in his opinion, will also mean more opportunities to educate the public, as well as state legislators, about the role and vitality of this industry. With enough advocacy, this can lead to positive changes for our members, funding the research that will move our industry forward and keep us competitive in a growing market. “We need to have a shared vision to accomplish those specific goals and I think that framework is already in place,” Wenk said.

If you’re involved in the Pennsylvania cider industry in any capacity, please consider becoming a member of our vibrant, passionate Guild. Although we’re (currently) a small and growing industry, there is increasing competition in the marketplace beyond the state borders. “We can navigate those waters if we’re all paddling in the same direction. We’re stronger as a unit in Pennsylvania than we would be striking it out on our own,” Wenk noted. “We need your help and you’ll benefit from our help. We need each other.”

For more information on the Pennsylvania Cider Guild, visit our website, follow us on Facebook and sign up for our email newsletter for updates.

Emily Kovach

Images by Casey Martin Photography