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Agriculture Program Students Fire Up Apple Cider Press

Students in Loomis' Sustainable Agriculture Program fired up the school's apple cider press for the first time this fall on Friday, October 5, and pressed more than 18 quarts of cider for school community members to enjoy.

In 2016, Julianna Lee, now a senior, and Gunnar Simons '17 were awarded a Gilchrist Environmental Fellowship to develop the cider press project. The annual fellowships are given to students and other school community members to put their ideas for environmental stewardship into action.

Julianna and Gunnar's plan originally was to make cider from donated apples until the on-campus trees planted a couple of years ago produce enough fruit for cider-making. Last year, they made several gallons of cider from apples donated by Rogers Orchards of Southington, Connecticut which is owned and operated by a family with many Loomis Chaffee connections. Rogers Orchards generously donated several bushels of apples again for this year's pressing.

Julianna, who is a student leader in the agriculture program this year, lent her expertise to the students' effort on Friday. The two-step cider-making process involves first creating an apple mash by grinding the apples in an in-sink garbage disposal unit acquired for that purpose. Afterwards, the mash is tamped down in the wooden press to squeeze out the cider. This year, the operation was conducted indoors to avoid the many bees drawn to the sweet apple mash — which created a disturbance last year.

Gratia Lee, agriculture program director, said lessons learned from last year helped speed up this year's production and make the process less cumbersome. The students hope to generate about a dozen gallons of cider this week which will be sampled by many in the school community, Gratia said.

In addition to Julianna, Friday's operation included seniors Tara Pugliese and Sharon Zhou; juniors Ben Lawrence and Madison Redmond; sophomores Henry Chapin and Pun Sangruji; and freshman Viraj Dcunha. Math Department Head Joe Cleary also joined in the effort with the promise of a taste of the cider as a reward.