January 4, 2021
Riverdale Orchard and Cidery has a clear ambition: to be the tourism destination for premium, naturally crafted cider on P.E.I. Arriving more than six years ago from their native Scotland, Anne and Alex Jamieson turned a cider-making hobby into an award-winning artisan business based on the all-natural fermentation of a single ingredient --- apples from their 3,000-tree orchard in the Bonshaw Hills.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced them to pivot quickly to online sales, providing free delivery across the province and local curbside pickup. They also promoted an expanded line of food products and introduced their scenic orchard setting as a food destination. "Customers felt safer since they could socially distance on our outdoor deck and in our picnic pods and watch their children run with their kites and play," says Anne Jamieson. "Biking groups pre-booked spaces for members using the nearby Bonshaw Trails, and we sold out a Bonfire Night (Guy Fawkes) through social media within two days."
Their involvement with Food Island Partnership's Food Propel program has helped them build on pandemic-lessons learned as they strategize for the future. "Being an entrepreneur is a lonely place at times and connecting with other like-minded people has been inspiring," says Jamieson. "Food Propel workshops focus us on new options and the way to get there."
Current innovations include plans to increase indoor seating capacity with a new tap room that will feature a growing portfolio of their cider. They're also expanding their menu of traditional Scottish heritage food. "We'll publish our winter menu soon as we launch our Snowshoeing, Cider and Food packages and other winter events, ensuring COVID-19 regulations are followed." They'll continue to collaborate with local agri-businesses and promote PEI artisans by selling their products.
Mentorship has provided a strong impetus as they contemplate their future. "A key benefit of Food Propel is the support and guidance of mentors," says Alex Jamieson. "The fact that our mentors have already been in our shoes is a real bonus. Day-to-day operations can be all consuming, but working with them has helped us see a path to the Canadian Tourism Destination Map for Premium Craft Cider within five years. That conversation has been collaborative and fun, much like the process of fermenting a great apple cider.”
By Magner Ink (www.magnerink.com). This is one in a series of articles on the P.E.I. Food Cluster.