“[We] have worked hard to create a safe space where members can speak candidly about their own experience.” —David Thornton, James Creek Cider House

The topic of social justice has been much in the news lately and many business sectors are taking a hard look at how they can address the thorny issues of diversity and inclusion. The beverage industries are no exception, cider included. Many cider companies, large and small, are making a variety of individual efforts, such as dedicating a percentage of their sales to support organizations that promote food sovereignty and farm ownership for people of color.

On a larger scale are a variety of programs initiated by some of the cider trade associations. The New York Cider Association (NYCA), for example, has recently formed a social justice committee to explore specific actions that can be taken by its members, designed to increase the representation of Black, Indigenous, and persons of color in cidermaking, such as targeted internships. The NYCA has also hosted several frank and informative live-streamed conversations as part of its regional cider weeks, including on Race & Cider and Reparations & Cider, that offer ideas for things that companies and consumers can do to advance social justice. Making these videos available on the NYCA’s You Tube channel and Facebook page lets the association expand its reach.

The American Cider Association (ACA) has been making strides as well. There have been relevant presentations at the ACA’s annual conferences for several years, such as 2020’s Being Friendly Isn’t Enough: Strategies and Tactics for Building Diversity in the Cider Industry, presented by equity and inclusion specialist Dr. J. Nicol Jackson-Beckham. In addition, the ACA has formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee that’s making recommendations for promoting these values within the cider industry. Noting the diverse make up of the committee itself, David Thornton, committee and ACA board member and co-owner of James Creek Cider House (with his wife, Ann-Marie), said, “The committee is exciting. We have a good collection of voices and balance and have worked hard to create a safe space where members can speak candidly about their own experience.”

So far the ACA has made a number of commitments based on the committee’s recommendations. It has begun by sending out a monthly newsletter with well-curated anti-racism resources that can also be accessed on the association’s website (www.ciderassociation.org/anti-racism-equity-inclusion). The association has further committed to participating in anti-bias and diversity training at the board and staff level; to additional seminars and discussions around diversity, equity, and inclusion at its 2021 annual conference; and to refusing to promote cideries that use racist language or imagery.

In a recently published article in the zine Malus, committee member Malaika Tyson wrote, “A month or so ago, I read an article about Black chefs and one of the chefs interviewed made a comment along the lines of the hospitality industry having an appearance of being welcoming, but no one actually invites you to the table. That statement rang very true to me as there hasn’t ever been a situation where we [Dr. Tyson and her husband] feel unwelcome, but rather just not invited to participate.” Maybe the beverage world is finally starting to make the changes required to make every person feel truly welcome.