Alumni Impact: Jolie Devoto

Jolie Devoto’s love for apples runs deep; her youth was spent running through the Sebastopol orchards her parents planted. After graduating from Cal Poly with a degree in recreation, parks and tourism administration in 2010, Devoto ventured to Napa, California, to work in the events industry but soon found that her roots were calling her home.

At the time, apple prices were declining. Farmers were forced to sell their harvests for pennies on the dollar to local processors — an outfall of the Great Recession. So, Devoto returned home, determined to help preserve the heirloom apple trees her family had dedicated the last four decades to cultivating.

Devoto’s goal was to keep the apple trees in the ground. With that came the idea to produce a high-quality craft cider highlighting the rich area in central Sonoma County where they are grown. “Our apples are dry farmed, relying on the maritime coastal climate and the winter water table,” Devoto said. “They are thick-skinned and have more tannin than apples in other parts of the state and country — making them some of the best fruit we could possibly get our hands on.”

In 2012, Devoto combined her lifelong love of agriculture with her knowledge of the experience industry, and along with her business partner, Hunter Wade, launched their first cider project. In their first year of production, they fermented 2,000 gallons of Gravenstein apple cider — selling it at Bay Area farmers markets. The business quickly grew and transformed into Golden State Cider. Last year, they fermented more than a million gallons, collaborating with apple farmers throughout the state, with cider distribution spanning the West Coast. The Devoto family orchard now grows more than 100 varieties of apples, doubling what was grown when she first started the cider project.

“Sonoma is known as pinot noir country, but where you can grow wine grapes, you can also grow amazing heirloom apples,” Devoto said. “It’s been both a challenge and huge honor to work with this beautiful fruit and introduce specialty varieties to whole new generations of people through cider.”


The Devoto family has worked hard to restore biodiversity, supporting the very ecosystem that feeds them. “It is important to preserve apple varieties and introduce them in a way that demonstrates how important they are and that they should be saved,” Devoto said.

At heart of the business is a pledge to not only support generations-old apple farmers, but also to focus on sustainability. “Sustainability is king,” Devoto said. “It is something that leads the process of what we do every day and what brings me to work. This is about more than cider — this is about finding a closer connection to my food source and bringing that to the people within the state of California and beyond.”

Devoto credits her time at Cal Poly for the passion to pursue her dreams. “Creativity and inspiration are our soul spark in life, and it is important to follow that in whatever way makes sense to you,” Devoto said. “My time learning about the experience industry is what helped me realize that people crave experiences and connections, which is the foundation of everything we do.”


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