I sat at my desk, coffee by my elbow. As Nathan muttered away to himself about case deliveries and canning costs, I wracked my brain for dinner recipe ideas. I had promised to cook: everyone at home was (somehow) busier than I, and in all honesty, cooking has become somewhat of a hobby for me, as opposed to a chore.
My dilemma, however, evolved from the fact that I had intended on cooking a pasta dish. I’d already purchased half the needed ingredients. And yet, when I had swung by Woolworths before work, on the lookout for pasta, there was no pasta. Like, legitimately: the shelves were stripped. As I stood, stumped by the void before me, my phone buzzed with a text from my Mum: Can you try and get some toilet paper?
To cut this particular anecdote short: the toilet paper aisle was, incredibly, more depressing than its once carb-stocked counterpart.
Of course, my inability to purchase even half a cup of curly wheat or a roll of loo paper is not, in reality, the end of the world. I altered my plan of attack regarding dinner, and made a note not to cook anything that might inspire too much movement ‘downstairs’. Both Nathan and I had a good chuckle at the ridiculousness of the whole situation. And yet, I’d be lying if I claimed that it didn’t offer me a thoughtful pause: the world, it seems, has gone slightly insane.
This week, we’ve dived head-first into the deep end. We’re brewing a new batch. Twenty-thousand litres of apple cider, ready to be canned come mid-April. Now, at first glance, this decision may seem a crazy one to be making, what with the current state of things being a state of low-key social and economic chaos. And, as always, I’ll be honest with you: when Nathan shared with me this game plan, I was momentarily taken aback. Quietly I wondered: Is this really the right time? Are we setting ourselves up for disaster? Certainly, I swallowed down a burst of anxiety.
But the anxiety passed, as anxiety has a habit of doing, and I soon realised two things. I realised that, yes, this is the right time, and that - perhaps more importantly - we’re not setting ourselves up for failure. Rather, we’re setting ourselves up for the future.
I won’t deny that we’re taking a risk. And yet, from the devastation of the Great Depression to the carnage of the 2007 Global Financial Crisis, the Alcoholic Beverage Manufacturing industry has proven itself to be a recession-resistant one. While other businesses have crumbled, beer, wine and booze have soldiered on. Over the past week alone, we’ve witnessed the restrictions placed upon Australia’s social sphere be tightened, seemingly by the hour. If people are to stay somewhat-sane, snippets of normality are invaluable, and for many Australians, cracking open a cold one is a part of that normality. Cedar Creek Cider’s mission has always been a clear one: to craft the best Australian apple cider for anyone who’s willing to give it a sip. Now more than ever, I believe that the best thing we can do is to continue chasing down that mission.
I also believe that we have a further obligation to press forward, one that goes beyond the desire to continue meeting our customers’ needs. As a small business, we have an obligation to ourselves. I’ve written before about the struggles that Nathan has faced in his endeavour to bring Cedar Creek Cider to life, and these are struggles that every second small business owner would no doubt recognise all too well. In the grand scheme of things, COVID-19 is just another struggle - slightly larger in scale, granted, but another struggle nonetheless. Should we slow down now - or worse, grind completely to a halt - then what point was there in ever pushing through all of those night shifts at the Tahmoor Mines, or the Saga of the Exploding Cider Cans? In my humble opinion, it’s times such as these that sharpen into focus what lies at the core of a small business: why we do what we do, and the feats we’ve pulled out of the proverbial bag to become who we are today.
Another reality that has been sharpened is the essential nature of community, and of support. Cedar Creek Cider - and indeed all business ventures that have grown from Cedar Creek Orchard - has been blessed beyond words by the generosity of the surrounding community. Not all local businesses have been quite so fortunate, and the divide between those supported and those less so has never been so evident. In this time of uncertainty, we - as individuals and as communities - have a powerful vote to cast regarding how many small businesses will emerge from this pandemic in one piece. On the one hand, we can exhaust ourselves agonizing over that slowly-depleting toilet paper stash, or punching on with old ladies in Woolworths to win that last remaining bag of San Remo fettuccine. Alternatively, we could consider dedicating some of this restless, anxious energy to helping the businesses who crafted our wedding reception grazing tables and catered our charity events keep their heads above water.
I am a loyal subscriber to the notion that everything in life happens for a reason. And although I may not always share Nathan’s seemingly-immortal optimism, I genuinely believe that there is good to come from this season of catastrophe. I believe that this is an opportunity to be reminded of the things that make human beings truly incredible. I’m not referring to how much annual income we can rake in, or how many stock market fluctuations we can accurately predict. Rather, I’m referring to our innate ability to adapt, to overcome, and to continue loving one another, even when everything around us seems intent on destroying this ability.
And so, we will keep on keeping on. Nathan will can those twenty-thousand litres of cider, Mark and Lynelle will continue crushing those apples, and I’ll still be here: taking photos, editing videos and writing long-winded blog articles about this business that has evolved from being just another stop along the road of my creative career to a place that has started to feel like home. Yes, the world may have gone somewhat insane, but in reality, there are some things in life that are more important than toilet paper. It’s up to each of us to keep things in perspective.