Back to Batlow
"It's who I am and what I love"
After ten years living in the Southern Highlands and 'commuting' to work to craft the next batch of Apple Thief cider, our founder Dave Purcell is heading back to Batlow and the Snowy Valleys for good. As the next steps in the Apple Thief adventure unfold, coming home was an easy decision for Dave and partner Mel and their young family.
" I grew up in the family orchards, this town and these mountains. Raising a family in Batlow we know that our kids will connect to all the good things here – the beautiful environment, fresh air, family and community – that really make the place home.
Once upon a Dave...
Dave's passion for 'growing things' was sparked when he was just a little older than his children are now. His Dad planted an orchard of stone fruit and apple trees in Batlow. After school, Dave and his brothers would lend a hand learning to thin out the apples for the coming harvest. Later Dave would undertake a rural exchange to Denmark where he lived on an apple farm, learning more about different farming practices. By 1998, Dave was so engaged with his apples that he was recognised as the Young Industry Leader by Horticulture NSW.
Like many of the 'next generation' in family farming, Dave was drawn to the bright lights of the city. Playing rugby was the main reason for the move to Sydney, but Dave also took a job in industrial sales where he discovered his passion and natural skills for sales. Building on his farming experience, these new skills led Dave to establish a business providing contract management and labour hire to farming businesses in the Southern Highlands of NSW – mostly vineyards and olive groves.
Brewing a plan
After a visit home to Batlow, Dave delivered a ute load of apples to a local winemaker and soon the first batch of Pink Lady apple cider was created. The vision that would soon become the Apple Thief was born. A decade on, the Apple Thief is coming home too. As Dave puts it " I believe in my apples and I believe in Batlow."
Building a future for Batlow
The Batlow area was severely impacted by the devastating Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20 with loss to human life, stock, property and orchards. For Dave, coming home is not just a symbolic show of unity with the community as it rebuilds. " I believe that bringing the Apple Thief back to Batlow will help inspire others to invest in the Snowy Valleys region and help to bring back the visitors our community needs." Dave wants to build demand for accommodation and food experiences and hopefully get support for major projects such as a local rail trail, similar to projects that have energised and engaged other rural communities across Australia.
Construction begins shortly on a new cidery for the Apple Thief that means the complete process from growing the apples to bottling and distribution can all be completed in Batlow. "We're still a boutique producer but this means we'll be creating and supporting local jobs for local people. It's what's needed here as we regrow."
Further down the track, Dave and Mel have plans underway to open the Apple Thief Cider House. "Of course it will celebrate all things cider but we'll also be doing lots with Batlow's famous fruit and other local and regional produce." Apple Thief ciders have already found fans with leading chefs and cocktail mixologists around Australia and Dave wants to help elevate Batlow's position as a foodie's destination. "We'll offer great family dining at The Cider House, and would also love to welcome guest chefs to create special feasts for locals and guests. Watch this space."