Local Farmer, Artist Starts After the Fall Cider
Apr 27, 2020 08:10PM
By Kathleen Ganster
Photos courtesy of Maria Kretschmann
It is easy to say that farming is in Maria Kretschmann’s blood. She grew up on an 80-acre farm in New Sewickley Township, working on the land and going to farmers’ markets since she was a child. Her parents, Don and Becky, have been the driving force behind Kretschmann Farm for 40 years, and are leaders in organic farming in western Pennsylvania with 1,000 subscribers to their Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program.
When Kretschmann decided to start After the Fall Cider, a hard cider production utilizing the apple orchards on the property, it was a no-brainer.
“It happened sort of naturally, as I found myself more drawn to the orchard than anywhere on the farm,” she explained. “I just sort of connected the dots between my interest with fermenting and the work I was already doing. I guess you could call it my ‘Aha!’ moment.”
But Kretschmann has not always worked on the farm. She has a degree in fine art, and still maintains a studio practice.
“In every new chapter of my life, I’ve had to adjust my practice; this is just the latest iteration,” she said. “My work always adjusts to my life. I felt drawn to come back to the farm, but I refuse to stop making things.”
Kretschmann said that while farming is known for being demanding, so is making art, music or anything that is driven by passion. That is the connection she sees between her two practices.
“I had been back in the Pittsburgh area and growing fruit for five years when I became quite connected in the small world of holistic orchardists. Many of those people are cider makers as well,” she said.
In the winter of 2018, Kretschmann attended a holistic orchard meet-up that inspired her to move production up a notch. “I figured out at what scale I wanted to start, and bought my equipment accordingly,” she said.
Kretschmann had taught herself up to that point, and she also had a mentor. “I also had a gang of gals who were by my side bottling the first couple of rounds who believed in me,” she said.
In 2019, she took a cider-making course through the Cider Institute and started making her first big batches. “I still devour any cider-related reading to this day,” she added.
Word games helped Kretschmann come up with the name, After the Fall.
“I wanted something that had multiple meanings, dimensionally, and a little puniness. After the fall season is when you make cider, after the apples fall off the tree—and after I fall off the ladder, I will need a cider,” she said.
Kretschmann released her first two ciders from the 2018 harvest late last fall with two offerings, Orchard Blend and Goldrush Dabinett. Moving forward, she plans to have new flavors as well as the two originals.
This year is also important for the farm as a whole as Don Kretschmann, after over 40 years of standing at the helm, begins to step back from day-to-day farming activities. “We thought it appropriate for the longevity and survival of the farm to split up his roles between a number of people,” said Kretschmann.
The family hired a skilled farm manager who is knowledgeable on the organic farming front, and who Kretschmann says has a good sense for farming systems and a strong work ethic. Additionally, Hans Kretschmann, Maria’s cousin, will be taking over the bookkeeping and office work as well as helping around the farm.
While Kretschmann is also assisting with some of the CSA management during the farm’s transition, eventually, she hopes to solely focus on After the Fall and allow herself more time for her studio work.
Of course, one thing that she was not banking on was the outbreak of COVID-19.
“I had to adjust to the current situation, which has involved a new permit enabling my business to ship and deliver product, but I am lucky that I continue to operate,” she said. “Many small businesses are not so fortunate right now.”
Kretschmann takes orders through her website, where customers can also opt for pickup from the farm. Her ciders are also available at Liberty Beer in Bloomfield, which is still open for business during the quarantine.
Kretschmann has an active Facebook page and mailing list where she announces site sales. For more information, visit https://www.afterthefallcider.com.