A Unique Gem in Southern Pines
SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — Ann Marie and David Thornton are not your typical farmers. They endeavored to do something different from the start. They decided on apples in the Sandhills of North Carolina. Though this is not the ideal climate, heirloom apples happened to be their passion and this is where the couple lived and worked. Ann Marie had a unique ability to communicate their story with her background in literature and David had the background in biology that gave him an aptitude to handle the production challenges that came with growing apples in “not so typical” apple weather. The best part is that the couple took their marketing skills and biology knowledge to the next level by adding a cider business that makes high quality hard ciders.
“Having put together a business plan with NC Farm School Ann Marie had the extra tools she needed to tackle this marketing challenge head on.”
Ann Marie says they are growing leaps and bounds, “last year (in 2015) we produced twelve hundred liters of cider and now this year (in 2016) we are on track to do twelve thousand liters of cider, so it has been a big growth curve.” The couple has hired locally to help them keep up with the labor demands of pressing, fermenting, and bottling this amount of cider. Having put together a business plan with NC Farm School Ann Marie had the extra tools she needed to tackle this marketing challenge head on. She developed the label, navigated the unique marketing challenges of hard cider, and continues to promote her products at local events and businesses. The best part of their story is that they are farmers who make cider not cider makers who happen to farm. This is a unique business and you can find Ann Marie selling her beautiful heirloom apples and peaches at the Carrboro farmers market on Saturdays during the peach and apple season (early June through Thanksgiving).
— Derek Washburn
NC Farm School Associate
Agricultural & Resource Economics – NC State University