There's a really helpful autumn program in Missoula and I got to try it out for the first time this weekend.

I have a 50+-year-old apple tree in my yard, and now that it's fall, I have a lot of apples. Like, a lot of apples.

We Knew It Was Going to Be a Good Year for Apples

With a little Googling, we learned that the apple tree we inherited would flower every other year. Last year it was dormant, so this year it bloomed. But "bloomed" might be an understatement. We could hear our yard literally buzzing for weeks as all of the bees visited our tree. You could barely see the green leaves through all the white and pink blossoms.

Apple Blossoms
Eric Warren

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Fast Forward to Fall

Those blossoms became hundreds of apples, so many that we seriously considered buying our own apple press. But presses don't come cheap, and after hours spent picking up the fallen apples, we weren't very motivated to press all the apples. That's where The Great Bear Apple Drive came in.

The Great Bear Apple Drive

In its sixth year, the Great Bear Apple Drive is a partnership between the Great Bear Foundation and Western Cider. The goal of the drive is to reduce the number of apples on the ground available for bears to scavenge.

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Apples can be dropped off at Western Cider through mid-October, according to their event on Facebook.

So that's what we did.

So Many Apples to Donate

If we skipped the wormy apples, or the ones masticated by the birds, and only pulled apples that were within arms reach, we ended up with 8 crates worth of apples.

Ashley, Canva
Ashley, Canva

We hauled our apples to Western Cider where we transferred them to crates that could be stacked and stored until they were ready for pressing.

Western Cider Co, Missoula Montana
Ashley, Townsquare Media

The Great Bear Community Cider

Turning in the apples was work, but they made it really fun. We got to add a pin to their map of where our apple tree is located. Then, we filled out a sheet of paper with a little information about the tree and the kind of apples it produces. For bringing in the apples we were given $5 vouchers for cider at Western Cider.

Maybe the coolest part is that they'll be making a Great Bear Community Cider out of the local apples that were donated.

After the apples are collected, they are pressed into juice, fermented, packaged, and eventually sold in our tasting room and local markets. 10% of proceeds are donated to @greatbearfoundation. - The Great Bear Apple Drive, Facebook

That means soon we'll be able to drink the fruits of our labor. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

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