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ADA – The unseasonably cooler temperatures and persistent light rain didn’t keep people away from stepping onto the grounds of Sietsema Orchards and Cider Mill on Saturday. The Hard Cider Run kicked off its second year at Sietsema to combine a love of co-owners Courtney Walker and Erik Young, hard cider, with running.

“It is a booming industry now, and a lot of people are just now getting into the scene,” said Walker. “Hosting this run on different orchards allows people to try cider they never have before and also offers a lot of exposure for the cidery.”

Sietsema hosted the inaugural Hard Cider Run in West Michigan last year.  In spring and summer of this year, the race made its way into two other states and four additional cities. Uncle John’s Cider Mill in Lansing, Mich.welcomed the Hard Cider Run onto their land this past year, as well as: Doc’s Draft Hard Ciders in Warwick Valley, N.Y., Albemarle Ciderworks in Charlottesville, Pa.and Jack’s Hard Cider in Gettysburg, Pa..

The presentation began by walking through a large red barn standing in the middle of rows and rows of apple trees. The smell of fresh donuts filled the air, along with a tangible energy and wonder of what was to be expected. The light shining from the back of the barn led participants to the rest of the group herding together sharing the same excitement.

Participants from all over came together for their own special reasons. They included people who like to run in as many races as possible, and people like Kyle Liechey, who was running it simply because he finally wanted to run a 5K. Regardless of their motivations, this race welcomed them all.

“I ran this race today because in the fleeting days of summer with the signs of the autumn harvest bountiful and amongst us, we are engaging in our community around good drinks and good people,” said race participant Chris Frederick.

“I ran it for the cider. That is it. The delicious, crisp, refreshing cider at the end made it all worth it,” said race participant Katie Grace. “Beer at the end of races sits too heavy for me, but cider—now that is a brilliant idea!”  

The trail was in muddy conditions, making some parts difficult to feel like you weren’t falling. Participants enjoyed the unique symmetry of running through the very orchards that produced the hard cider they would enjoy at the end of the race.

Post race, shuffling feet made their way to the hard cider to get their own taste in an included “The Hard Cider Run” glass.  Fresh donuts were available to accompany the cider and couldn’t stay on the shelf long enough—a delicious way to end a memorable race.  

 

GRAND RAPIDS — Andy Sietsema is not one to toot his own horn — he even told us that. We had to drag out of him all the good work he does, and it’s well worth noting.

Apple farmer, businessman and driving force behind Sietsema Orchards and cider, he is a family man who loves what he does and shares his successes with those who could benefit from it. “We know that we are very fortunate, and it wasn’t always like that. When we needed help, people helped us — what goes around comes around,” Sietsema shares.

The community at large is important to the Sietsema family — that’s just how they were raised. Apples are regularly donated, for a variety of causes, from school groups to fundraisers to the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes. Space in the orchards and time have also been generously given for Suburba’s JDRF fundraiser dinner — a cause advocated by the owners of Ada restaurant and fully supported by Sietsema Orchards.

Donations for Christmas dinner to Forgotten Man Ministries carries a history. “My grandfather started donating apples to them. We always do Christmas dinner,” says Sietsema.

Apples make delicious hard apple cider, and the Orchard turns its fermented product into charitable giving as well. Recently, they’ve teamed up with Mercy Health-Saint Mary’s to raise money for their labor and delivery unit, a cause very near and dear to Sietsema’s heart.

“All my daughters were born there. All five of them, though now we only have four. I had a daughter pass away shortly after birth — she would have been three this fall,” he explains.

With a special, limited edition cider called ‘Maggie’s Reserve’ made of a variety of heirloom apples you can’t get anywhere else in the country, Sietsema honors his daughter and provides funding to the hospital that helped support the family through the hardest of times. This 10.5% ABV corked cider sells for $25 a bottle, with $10 of each bottle sold going to support the labor and delivery services at Saint Mary’s.

“As the quantity of heirloom apples we have grows, we envision this going statewide and raising even more awareness for Saint Mary’s,” Sietsema says.

This special, limited edition cider is available only at Sietsema Orchard’s store. Go and visit, enjoy a glass of hard cider while you explore the orchards and enjoy the surroundings in this welcoming, intimate, laid back environment and support a good cause at the same time.

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