Emily Ritchie is the Executive Director of the Northwest Cider Association, a position she has held for nearly a decade. Her work focuses on collective marketing efforts to support the cider revival in the greater Pacific Northwest. Emily began her career by teaching underserved children about growing fruits and vegetables, promoting healthy eating habits. She now aids farmers in cultivating a variety of crops, including apples, pears, quinces, and cane berries. In her private time, Emily finds solace in her home vegetable garden, which serves as a meditative space for her to connect with nature. It also brings her great happiness to celebrate holidays and rituals with her family, as it allows her to honor her Jewish traditions.

Emily Ritchie
Executive Director, Northwest Cider Association

Emily’s Story: Discovering My Passion for Associations

Our association crosses the US/Canadian border from BC down to Oregon and as far east as Montana. The people and culture across this land mass are so similar, and yet there are nuances that make us unique and stronger, enabling us to learn from each other. Collaboration is rewarded in the cider industry here.

I’m on a mission to change how people see cider. It doesn’t matter if folks are in Canada or the US! Let’s move past being either a cider person or not a cider person. People used to say they wanted white or red wine, but now folks have more knowledge about grape varieties, production, and what it could be paired with, empowering them to order more specifically. That’s my vision for cider.

Emily’s Approach: How to #InspireInclusion through Our Work and Actions

When I started in the industry in 2015, people weren’t even clear if cider was alcoholic. We’re way past that now here in the Pacific Northwest. The fact that people now identify with being a cider drinker is great. We’re driving that conversation nationally through many of our programs but specifically through collective marketing in an inclusive nature.

Individual companies and industries don’t have the marketing budget to reach consumers the way we need to, which is why comprehensive, collective marketing campaigns are needed so NWCA can tell the story of NW cider and all the growers and makers that comprise the industry. That story is about a group of diverse, innovative people who want to own their own businesses, to live their best lives. For example, my Board Secretary is a first-generation Mexican who grew up in Oregon working in the strawberry fields on summer breaks. Now as a father, he and his family have founded La Familia Cidery, which offers distinctive hard ciders inspired by Aguas Frescas—fresh fruit beverages like Jamaica or Tamarindo, popular in Central and South America. Now, he works with his family every day; they get to make something that celebrates their roots.

The work I do values that and shares their story and the many unique stories of cidermakers across our region. We go out of our way to create branding and imaging that showcases the makers and growers in our region, creating brand assets that inspire inclusion, whether visually like skin color or a less noticeable trait like being Jewish or gay. What we do is working. For example, cideries here are owned equally by men and women. This is unheard of in a beverage industry that trends more towards 20% leadership by women.

Collective marketing isn’t a foreign concept for many agriculture industries, but it was for cider. I have spent the last 5 years facilitating an industry-driven conversation on really honing in on the story of NW cider and brought it to life with photography, the NW Cider Club, high-quality videos used by over a hundred cideries in the PNW. This is not a coincidence you see cideries sharing their story, their passion, their place in a way that hints of rustic elegance.

Emily’s Perspective: On the Importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Associations

I believe inclusion is vital for the strength of an association. In particular, NWCA’s major strength is that our staff is an all-women team. Our staff is compassionate, sharp, and can navigate the emotional work it takes to engage a wider community of members of our association. Our board is made up of a diverse group of folks who really represent our community, which is vital to our success in pioneering so many important programs that we run!

Emily’s Initiatives: Actions and Inspirations for Fellow Association Leaders

In running an association, there’s a lot I cannot control, but something I do have control over is who my team is. The NWCA is run solely by women who have a deep interest in DEIJ. We have taken several years of courses with the Adaway Group, which is a « black woman-owned firm that provides consulting and training services in the areas of race equity, inclusion, social justice, strategic …] support to break down the disadvantages built into social institutions. » This is a great example of how you can train staff to have a more equitable lens on all the programming they’re managing. https://adawaygroup.com/about/.