Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Urban Orchard

Twin Cities Urban Apple Orchards Planned By
Crispin™ Natural Hard Cider
Taking a bite out of urban blight

With public funding of environmental improvement projects in an extended drought, Crispin Natural Hard Cider and a coalition of Twin Cities politicians, urban planners and environmental activists have partnered to plant urban apple orchards in the cities’ most blighted areas.

“We’re providing the seed money,” said Joe Heron, founder of Crispin Natural Hard Cider, “but the saplings come from the University of Minnesota’s Urban Agriculture Department, developer of the HenneCrisp Apple. Several hundred young trees are actually ready to be planted.”

A big apple for the Minneapple

A softball-sized, bitter-sharp mutation of the famed Minnesota Honeycrisp apple, the new HenneCrisp apple is too tart for everyday eating, but perfect for hard apple cider, explains lead scientist Baron Rubin. “Moreover the tree is aggressively hardy enough to thrive in an urban environment. Plus it grows very quickly and yields full, long-lasting blossoms.”

After viewing a presentation by Crispin and the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities public servants and representatives became early converts to the idea, said Heron.

“They loved the shot of Block E almost entirely obscured by a cloud of pink apple blossoms.”

Twin Cities business figures have expressed similar enthusiasm. “This urban beautification project is so important to me that I will be planting HenneCrisp saplings on the roof of my store,” said Jim Surdyk, owner of Surdyk’s liquor store. “I can see giving Crispin customers a free sapling with every purchase of the new hard cider – Crispin Urban Scrumpy -for their roofs, too.”

Joining the chorus, Phil Roberts, founder of Parasole Restaurant Holdings, has signed on to hand out free HenneCrisp seed packs on Earth Day to those customers exhibiting true urban street cred, said Heron.

A vision blossoms

Among other blighted sites slated for development in Phase I: Hennepin Avenue from 14th Street to the Mississippi River; the surface parking lot in front of the Minneapolis Downtown Public Library ; the Sears parking lot in the shadow of the state Capitol; and the IDS Center’s Crystal Court.

“Of course, every project needs a showcase site,” added Heron, “and ours is the rooftop of the Minneapolis Central Library, which has been given over to a HenneCrisp apple orchard. It was supposed to have a planetarium, but obviously that’s just starry-eyed thinking with deficits like ours. Trading a ceiling full of lights for a constellation of apples is a fair trade, however.”

Overcoming Challenges – Financial and Botanical

Heron estimates start-up costs for the venture to range from $2.3 to $2.7 million. “Most of that I anticipate coming from the substantial contribution from the federal stimulus package, as the urban apple orchards present a significant opportunity in the form of green jobs and education programs.

“A network of benches will be installed on which seniors will be stationed – I’m tempted to say ‘planted’ – to guard the trees from poachers and urinating animals. As for picking the apples and transforming them into Crispin Natural Hard Cider, we are contacting enthusiastic partners in various school systems. How fortunate will children be to learn the fermentation sciences while exercising their inherent tree-climbing skills?”

The larger challenge in bringing about the Urban Apple Orchards was not financial, but botanical, explained Heron. “How do you develop the perfect apple for hard cider in an environment choked with bus fumes and clogged with infrastructure? It took a while, but the U of M’s Urban Agricultural Department, colloquially known as the “pip-hop department” came through – with the HenneCrisp apple tree.”

An apple tree with attitude

Explains dendrologist Baron Ruben: “The roots are fast-growing, thick and almost barbed like grappling hooks. Technically, they could classify the tree as an invasive species since the roots choke practically anything they come into contact with; it’s amazing to see – but the tree’s aggressive nature is belied by its beauty and fecundity.”

Heron also points to genetic variations of the HenneCrisp that have already been created by the University of Minnesota. “It’s amazing. Tweak a gene and you have a tree with the most gorgeous flowers – imagine Carmen Miranda-like blossoms outside the Saloon or the Gay 90s. Another snip in a chromosome string and you have tall, slender, almost anorexic looking trees, perfect for Edina. All those sites will be developed once we get a signature from Gov. Pawlenty.”

Phase II slated for 2011

“Think about Apple Valley,” says Heron. “Wouldn’t it be nice if it actually were an apple-y valley? People call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. Who likes that stretch of ugliness opposite Kenwood on the north side of Hwy 394, or the old Campiello site at Lake Street and Girard. And please St. Crispin, intercede to put Southdale out of its misery.

“And perhaps I’m speaking out of turn, but we’re distributing Crispin Hard Cider in other major cities. We’re working with Chicago’s Mayor Daley to plant orchards in abandoned railroad yards, housing projects and stockyards. And in Seattle we’re going to ring the Space Needle.”

About the Crispin Cider Company

The Crispin Cider Company is dedicated to the development and marketing of superior pure hard apple cider refreshment. The company is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more information go to www.CrispinOverIce.com.

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