Westcountry farmers have paid their labourers with cider since medieval times – a tradition that remains in a part of the world where many local customs centre around the apple harvest and Scrumpy cider-making season. This cider, specific to England, is made by simply placing fresh apple juice in airtight oak barrels where fermentation naturally occurs.
In small villages, men barter their labour in return for a share of the year’s cider yield. One farm will provide the apples, a neighbour will have an apple-press, another the oak barrels and the younger men, the strength to work the press. Described as an agricultural necessity and certainly more than just an alcoholic drink, it is a tradition that has bound remote communities together for centuries.
Each year three generations of the Reed family gather to make cider. In his late seventies, Bill oversees the process while his grandson Richard learns the ancient craft, which he intends to hand on to his own children. They are helped by neighbour Andy Jarvis, who makes cider for many farms in the small Devonshire village of Stockland, but never charges for his labour. Nearby on the edge of Exmoor, John Simmons, like many others, has been making cider with the same old oak press and horse-powered apple crusher for 60 years. For these men cider-making is at the heart of a rural culture that values self-sufficiency, working the land and above all, neighbours you can count on.
The audio interviews were conducted with (in order of appearance): Richard Reed, Andy Jarvis and John Simmons.