craft cider makers are having trouble getting their hands on flavorful cider apples (that means bitter apples that are not necessarily good for eating). Though many commercial hard ciders are fairly sweet, a growing body of cider connoisseurs prefer dry subtle flavors, and only cider apples can provide that. Some brewers are obtaining apples from as far away as France, but others are beginning to grow their own.
I think this sounds like a great entrepreneurial enterprise for anyone with some suitable land who wants to plant some orchards...and the recent state tax incentives in New York make this even more attractive. Some languishing orchards might even be brought back.
Cider apples sometimes require slightly warmer, milder growing zones than other Northeast varieties, so be sure to get trees that will flourish in your climate. As with any apple trees, cider apples are subject to the same pests and problems (I had an heirloom Smokehouse tree planted at my campsite in western NY, that got decimated by fireblight this year). This is a guide to common issues with apple trees in the Northeast. But the good news is, these apples need not be picture perfect (since they're going to be mashed up) and so organic growing methods are easier to implement, and can prove to be a good selling point for your product. There are plenty of books and websites to show you how to grow your trees using organic practices; organic ciders can obviously position themselves to fulfill a very desirable niche in the market.
So, who's planting an orchard this year? You can buy trees from Trees of Antiquity (order soon, they're shipping to colder regions until the end of May!) and many products to help you create a vibrant home orchard from Saint Lawrence Nurseries.