We planted just about everything else that can grow in the upper Midwest…acre per acre, there is a lot more food being produced and it’s not just apples anymore (on diversifying the farm).
Amy Gabay 00:00
This podcast is brought to you by Artspire presented by the Pump House Regional Art Center, to attract engage and connect artists in the community through an art fair and sale on Saturday, June 12. Information is at artspire.thepumphouse.org. We chatted with Harry and Jackie of Hoch Orchard and Gardens. We talk origins of the farm, unique farming practices, the creation of Hoch Orchards, hard cidery and winery, and partnering with Turisimo Fermentations. We also talk new products and what’s next for these area farmers. You can find more conversations on our website, lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy. And I’m Brent. And this is La Crosse Local.
Harry Hoch 00:48
I’m Harry Hoch. I was born in La Crosse. This orchard was my father’s hobby farm. So I’m second generation on the farm. Jackie and I were married way back in the 80s. So that’s how she became part of the farm.
Jackie Hoch 01:05
Yep, like, I grew up in Hoka. And never thought I’d be a farmer, thought I’d be moving far away from this area. And then I met a farmer and married a farm.
Brent Hanifl 01:16
So you know, I’ve been out there a few times and actually got to kind of visit the orchard. How is your place unique from other farms?
Harry Hoch 01:24
Well, the biggest thing is probably the diversity that we are raising multiple crops and, and different animals all on the on the same farm. And then what’s really unusual for our region is to be a certified organic apple orchard, as the upper Midwest is just such a humid climate, almost all of the organic apples grown in the US are in the arid areas of the of the west part of the country.
Jackie Hoch 01:52
I think that when we were first married, this was like Harry said his his dad’s hobby farm and he liked to plant apple trees. And that’s mostly what was on the farm. And since we took over, we planted just about everything else that can grow in the upper Midwest, and so acre per acre, there’s a lot more food that’s being produced. And it’s not just apples. When we were first married, I would get mad because people would say, oh, how’s everything at the farm? And I would say it’s an apple orchard. Because I wasn’t a farmer. I didn’t know much about it. And then now, when people say how’s the orchard I think well, it’s not just an orchard, it’s got the animals, it’s got different kinds of fruit, it’s got vegetables, it’s got, you know, the crops that we need to grow for the pigs and the sheep. So just like Harry said, the diversity and the different types of crops. And then on top of it being organic, there’s becoming more and more interested in that. But it’s still a pretty tough proposition in the human Midwest,
Brent Hanifl 02:46
talking about the diversity of your farm, but then also the apple orchard. Seems like of course, you’d go into the cider business, how did the cider come about?
Harry Hoch 02:55
The cider was kind of a long, slow process, we started fermenting things. Probably 15 or 20 years ago on a home scale. We have a couple acres of vineyard on the farm. So we’ve been making wine. Then we started looking into the idea of having a cidery here, the wine grapes, we’ve always just sold the other wineries. And we just started looking into the idea of it. And Minnesota passed the law in the 80s called the Minnesota farm winery law, which allows you to do a lot more things than a lot of other states. You know, with this special law, you know, we can distribute, we can grow things on the farm and press and, and sell from the farm all all under one license. So we just we started looking into it about more seriously probably close to 10 years ago. And we started testing different varieties here. And then in 2015, we were approached by a friend of an intern who wanted to get into the business and we started the cidery. Then in 2015 2016 in a collaboration with another guy. We split that business up in after about two years and we’ve just been running under our label since then.
Jackie Hoch 04:21
I think the other thing, growing fruit and growing fruit organically there’s always going to be a certain amount of processing grade fruit. So we’ve done fresh juice and applesauce and jelly. And I think any Fruit Grower normally will ferment something, whether it’s vinegar, wine, whatever. So we’ve always like Harry said been doing it on a home base scale for a long time. And so then the hard cider gives us an option to get a shelf stable product that we can sell year round versus selling apples or fresh juice or fruit just in season. So I think all of those things fit with the idea of a self enclosed farm that can sustain itself itself across the whole year.
Brent Hanifl 05:02
With a cider business, you’ve partnered with Turisimo Winery and Fermentation. What led you to that partnership?
Harry Hoch 05:08
We’ve been trying different, different ways to make our cider and played around with different containers, different ways of distribution. I’ve had a couple of people, since we’ve gone on our to our own company after the collaboration, I’ve had two or three different people working with us doing sales and helping with distribution. But it turns out that it’s really difficult to try to run an alcohol distribution, it’s a lot different than fruit, you really have to visit your customers face to face. And beer distributors are often in these bars and restaurants, you know, sometimes a couple of days a week. And we’ve never been able to do that. So we haven’t been able to keep consistently on our customers shelves. So we’ve been friends with Tammy and Joe for a long time. One of the guys that was doing some of our sales for us and distribution left for another job, Tammy and Joe brought up the idea of maybe collaborating and we had thought about it. And we had collaborated on a smaller scale for a long time. We’ve provided them juice for some of their different beers. We’ve used equipment back and forth. When we were doing 22 ounce bottles, we use their maheen bottler or we brought it up here and bottled. Then we have a labeler that we bought originally for all of our sauces and jellies and things that worked well on the 22 ounce bottles. So then Joe would borrow the labeler when they were doing special runs of 22 ounce bombers. So we’ve been collaborating a long time. d\Doing the bottling, and canning down at the brewery was just another step in in a small amount of collaboration that we’ve been doing. And now they’re distributing our ciders in Wisconsin. Jackie helped over about, what seven months go through the whole application process to become a Wisconsin winery and manufacturer. So that licensing was completed a little over a year ago.
Jackie Hoch 07:28
I think a little longer than that.
Harry Hoch 07:31
So that’s kind of what it depended on is getting all this licensing and that’s kind of a difficult thing to do.
Brent Hanifl 07:37
You just been growing with cider over the last couple years. What are you excited about? What’s coming up in 2021 2022? It could be about the cider or it could be about the orchard or is there anything in particular that you’re pretty pumped about?
Harry Hoch 07:50
Well, it would be exciting to sell kegs again. So the restaurants will open up, we haven’t sold the kegs since February last year.
Jackie Hoch 08:00
I think the cans too are pretty exciting. Tami has been working really hard to do some designs for four of the main ciders that we do and kind of really focusing on those four main ciders. And so Purple Reign came out last year and then they did Cider Nouveau in November and Honey Honey in January and then there’ll be one more Cool Harrelson. So we’ll have four main line hard ciders in cans. So that’s been kind of a fun project to be able to see that happen and just the packaging is different. Our packaging before was pretty, pretty basic. Pretty just simple. This is a farm winery, and you could identify that it was Hoch Orchard, but she’s done some pretty interesting things with her designs. And I think the cans look pretty cool.
Harry Hoch 08:45
And the Harrelson can look cool. Harrelson has a variety of cider we’ve made for a long time. It’s an old Minnesota variety. That’s pretty tart. We let it wild ferment in an agent for two and a half year and a year. It’s a nice dry cider without any tannins. So it’s not like the old world British style ciders. But it’s been a popular cider with us. When this next batch is ready to go and the brewery is ready. Then we’ll be releasing Cool Harrelson again with the new package. So that’ll be kind of exciting. But when we actually release it’ll kind of depend on how well ciders are selling and when our inventory of other stuff sells down a bit.
Brent Hanifl 09:29
So if people want to find out more about Hoch Orchard, check out more about the hard cider. What’s the best website or social media outfit to go to?
Harry Hoch 09:38
Our farm has the main website. It’s just www.hohorchard.com and then we’ve got a separate page on that site for the cidery itself. So you can go to that part of our website. Read all about the different methods we use for making our ciders and read about the different types of ciders.
Jackie Hoch 10:00
We have a Facebook page for that it doesn’t have a lot of likes yet, but we’re hoping to develop that a little bit more so, and Harry does some Instagram stuff. So we’re pretty low key on the social media.
Harry Hoch 10:14
If you’d like us on Facebook, then you can actually see some videos when I’m working on the ciders. We’ll do one to two minute videos here and there. So you can see the small batches and we make all kinds of different cider blends with different types of fruits. So, you know for making a hot cider, you can see us working with the hops, we do it a spruce where we collect little tips of the spruce in the spring and then blend them in later in the winter. So and then all the different fruits sometimes you’ll get a video of our little barrel press doing these specialty fruits, or sometimes the blending lots of different stuff.
Amy Gabay 10:57
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook @lacrosselocal. Find out more about us at lacrosseloca.com. And you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you’d like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.
About La Crosse Local
La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.
Find us in your favorite podcast app.