Three Springs Fruit Farm’s Ben Wenk starts Ploughman Farm Cider
By Emily Kovach
Ben Wenk is a fruit guy. Along with his family, he runs Three Springs Fruit Farm, a seventh-generation family farm in Adams County, Pennsylvania. The farm’s primary crop is apples, ranging from common varieties such as Gala and Golden Delicious to unique and heirloom strains, such as Summer Rambo and Cox’s Orange Pippin. Wenk and his father have been vendors at the Headhouse Square farmers market for the past decade, and after one of their first markets, Ben cracked open a Strongbow cider to unwind. It was the first dry cider he’d ever tasted. “I let dad try a sip and we were both blown away,” he says. Soon after, he began making cider in the farm’s barn.
Wenk observed other regional craft cideries open, he realized what a boon cider could be for the rural community he called home. In 2016, he founded Ploughman Cider. To develop the recipes and methods that would launch the operation, he hired Edwin Winzeler, a member of the horticulture team at Penn State’s Fruit Research and Extension Center in Biglerville. “He’s been perfecting his [cidermaking] craft since long before we met,” Wenk says.
The cider is now fermented, blended, matured and bottled at Three Springs Fruit Farm, where the apples are grown. In 2017, Wenk expects to produce more than 4,000 gallons of finished product. To promote the brand, he’s organized a number of events throughout the spring with Philadelphia bars and restaurants, and has been sampling and selling at various farmers markets. “How am I balancing this and all the farm stuff at the same time? I have no idea!” Wenk says. “The not-so-big secret to getting it all done is the incredible people on our team at the farm—not the least of which are my dad, uncle and cousin.”
Ploughman’s first run of ciders includesStark, an American strong cider, and Lupulin Lummox, cider infused with Citra hops, as well as one-off blends based on “Edwin’s whimsy.” Wenk says that he is “committed to taking whatever is best on the farm any given year and doing something fun and enjoyable with those products.” As far as seasonal releases go, keep an eye out for Ploughman’s crabapple-based cider in autumn, as well as the new Ploughman 64 series of special farmers-market-only releases, some using fruit, cherries and other “proper cider fruits,” according to Wenk.