In-cider knowledge at Batlow conference

Mark Robertson of Lost Pippin cider, Tasmania, was the keynote speaker.

This year’s CiderFest conference focused on what will hopefully be a growth area for Batlow in the coming years: Farmgate Marketing and Tourism.

The keynote speaker was Mark Robertson of Lost Pippin cider, who was one of the driving forces behind Tasmania’s popular cider trail. He shared his knowledge and experience, and said he believes Batlow would be an ideal spot for a similar tourist draw.

“I think any region that has a strong history in any particular product has huge potential to develop strong tourism,” he said.

“Particular with Batlow’s proximity to other tourism bases – Tumbarumba with wine and things like that – there’s huge potential there. It’s also not that far from bigger markets, being Canberra and Sydney, so for people to come out and spend a weekend here is a natural fit.”

Tasmania’s cider trail is made of up 12 different boutique breweries working together to bring in the tourist dollar, and Mr Robertson said one of the most important factors – and biggest challenges – in putting together a successful trail is getting everyone to work together.

“In my mind that’s what cider tourism is about,” he said.

“It’s not about individuals, it’s about a group of people who are making great products and doing it in such a way that it’s attractive for people to come and experience what they’re doing.

“What people need to recognise is that they are stronger as one. When they get together and cooperatively market something, they’ll see that working together is really the only way to achieve big things.”

Of course, Batlow already has the cooperative, but produce based tourism is still in its infancy in this region. Local producer and speaker at the conference Ralph Wilson believes that it will take off in the coming years – and that the fate of the orchards is tied up in it doing so.

“We just can’t survive on the prices that supermarkets decide they’re going to pay us,” he said.

“If you’re a very large player and you can survive on small margins, that’s fine. If I’m only making a few cents per case, that’s not enough for me to live on.”

Mr Wilson said having buyers, in the form of tourists, come and buy products directly from sellers opens up opportunities for value-adding, which is another key process that the growers are developing more and more.

“Value-adding is basically taking the apples that would go towards juice, that we get between 11 and 15 cents a kilo for,” Mr Wilson said.

“They cost us around a dollar a kilo to grow, so obviously that’s not a good product. But if we can take that product and make cider out of it, or make apple cider vinegar out of it, or make pies out of it, ice cream, all sorts of things, we add value to it, so we make back our costs of production.

“Marketing is really important, so what they were talking about at the conference was, how do we market our products, how do we value-add our products, how do we present our products in a different way rather than just sending them off to the factory or to the supermarket?”

There’s one definite way to bring more tourists to the town, however, and that’s CiderFest.

“This has been an absolute boon for Batlow, both the conference and CiderFest,” Mr Wilson said.

“I mean, look at all the people here! 1500 people living in town, and five or six thousand people here today. It’s great for the town, and great for tourism as well, because now people know we’re here, they’ve been here, and they’ll come back.”