THE orchards and apples are the centre of attention at this time of year so it was a pleasure to welcome the production crew for BBC1’s Home Ground series which took viewers into the heart of our land this week.

Many of you watched Home Ground on Monday night which is brilliant because you will have heard Greg’s story of his journey from being a young boy working in the orchards to becoming one of Ireland’s leading cider producers.

Viewers of Home Ground, which was aired on Monday night at 7.30pm, heard how Greg, as a boy, would have been helping his dad Sammy, a fourth generation apple grower, as they worked their way around the orchards. He grew up surrounded by the apple trees, the smell of the fragrant apples and learning about the different apple varieties grown on the land opposite Ardress House.

During Monday night’s programme Greg explains the process of apple picking – a process he says which dates back hundreds and even thousands of years. He described how every apple is picked by the human hand, put into bins, which years ago were small apple crates, and then brought to the yard for processing.

Greg, who is a fifth generation apple grower, told the Home Ground presenter, Gavin Andrews, how connected he and his family are to the land and the fruit which comes off the land.

Viewers heard how growing Bramley apples was a highly competitive marketplace with tight margins which is what led Greg to diversify the business and shift from being an apple grower to also becoming an Irish cider producer.

Greg said: “I was keen to make a cider but I set it up on the shoulders of my dad and every generation that goes before him. The real toil and the hard work was done many, many years ago and I was lucky enough to pick that up.”

Irish cider producer Greg MacNeice welcomes the team from BBC NI Home Ground to his orchards at Ardress, Co Armagh

It’s impossible to be in the orchards and not want to pick some apples so, under Greg’s watchful eye, Gavin was taught the art of how to pick an apple from an apple tree in the heart of County Armagh’s famous orchards.

After that it was then back to the yard to see the production process underway and taste our ciders.

Gavin explains to viewers that years ago the apples would have been peeled by local families. But in more recent times, peeling machines, which are used in the food and drink industry, can peel 100 apples per minute.

Irish cider maker Greg MacNeice welcomes BBC NI Home Ground team to his orchards at Ardress in County Armagh

So with the heavy apple aroma surrounding Gavin he couldn’t do anything else but try our great tasting ciders.

Greg told Gavin. “There’s been a huge shift moving from the traditional apple growing farm. My grandparents were growers then my father brought it into processing as well and for me it was time for me to tell my own story and make my own mark.

“It was a gamble really because this market is full of household names and we have to put ourselves up against them.”

Proud of his achievements Greg said he hopes that his ancestors and past generations would have been proud of how he has taken the apple growing business to the next stage.

“It was my ancestors who worked the land. It was them who dug the soil and dug the stones out of the soil, to get the beautiful orchards we have today and I am doing a different type of digging and flying the flag in a different kind of way.”

If you missed Monday night’s episode you’ll hopefully be able to catch it on BBC iPlayer. It’s worth a watch. Greg’s interview features first on the programme.