Our Growers: Central

Applewood Orchards

Deerfield, Michigan
Founded: 1935

Walter E. Swindeman, Sr. planted his first apple trees in what would become Applewood Orchards in the fall of 1935.

By 1958, Walter’s son, Bernie, took over the orchard, and after years of steady growth, they built one of the first controlled atmosphere rooms in the United States. As the years went on, they kept building more controlled atmosphere storage rooms and taking on outside growers so they could keep up with the demand from their customers including several major grocery chains.

Applewood Orchards incorporated in 1963, and in the mid-1970’s, Bernie’s three sons got involved in running the family business. Today, the three sons run the business, which includes more than 450 acres of apples and plans for continued expansion.

For more information, click here.

Bakker’s Acres

Suttons Bay, Michigan
Founded: 1989

Al Bakker and his wife, Lynn, purchased the land that would become Bakker’s Acres in 1989. The 70 acre parcel was planted with hay, corn and oats, but Al’s experience and interests led him to plant fruit trees.

Al was (and still is) a partner with neighboring Cherry Bay Orchards, whose primary business was in apples and cherries.

Located in prime cherry-growing country, Al soon discovered he was paradoxically drawn to the challenges presented by growing apple trees. Like a chef forever tinkering toward a perfect recipe, he appreciated the deft horticultural touch required to produce a desirable crop of apples.

Bakker’s Acres interest in SweeTango came directly from experience with one of its parents, Honeycrisp. While selling their fruit at local farmers markets, Al and Lynn were impressed with the passion high quality apples inspired in their customers. In turn, that inspired Al and Lynn to seek out more varieties that could garner such powerful consumer responses.

One bite of a SweeTango apple told them they’d found their match!

Bakkers Acres has Sweetango for retail sale available at their farm stand
2677 N. Setterbo Road
Suttons Bay MI.

Sweetango are also offered for sale at 3 local farmers markets:

For more information, click here.

Brandel Farms

Hart, Michigan
Founded: 1940s

Brandel Farms was established in the mid-1940’s when Herb and Ruth Brandel purchased a 40-acre farm in Hart, Michigan. They grew a wide variety of crops including fruit, vegetables and grains, as well as Christmas trees and raised livestock. By the 1970’s, with the help of their son Richard and his wife Janet, they began to focus on tart cherries, apples and Christmas trees.

In 1996, Brandel Farms planted Honeycrisp as their first fresh apple variety. This started the transition from processed fruits to the more rewarding and exciting fresh apple varieties, including SweeTango. Brandel Farms is a third generation family farm, currently owned by grandson Tony Eisenlohr.

Cherry Bay Orchards

Suttons Bay, Michigan

Cherry Bay Orchards grows 400 acres of apples on its farm in Suttons Bay. Located on Lake Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula, the farm also consists of 200 acres of sweet cherries and 800 acres of tart cherries. Don Gregory and his brother Bob started the own fruit operation in 1972 and has received the USDA Good Agricultural Practices certification.

High Acres Fruit Farm & Centennial Farms

Hartford, Michigan
Founded: 1943

High Acres Fruit Farm and Centennial Farms, LLC had its beginnings in 1943 when Glenn and Catherine Meachum purchased 80 acres in Hartford Township in southwestern Van Buren County to raise peaches and cherries. Since then, Douglas and Bonney Meachum along with their three sons and families, Trever and Jennifer: Jason, Nicole and Spencer; and Ryan, Rachel, Grace, Zachary, and Grant; have expanded and diversified their farm.

High Acres Fruit Farm now operates on 2,500 acres raising several different fruits, vegetables, and row crops including apples, plums, cherries, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, peppers, tomatoes, corn, soybeans, and wheat.

The Meachum’s are progressive leaders and innovators in the agricultural industry. They own and operate Paw Paw River Produce – a cold storage and warehousing facility. In 2005, the farm launched the Spencer tomato brand label. This label has now become recognized throughout the Midwest and East Coast as a premium product.

In 2006, they were awarded the Michigan Farm Bureau Farm Stewardship Award. In 2007, The Michigan Vegetable Council presented the farming operation with the Master Farmer Award. High Acres Fruit Farm is truly an outstanding family farming operation. They are proud to be an American farm family that works hard to put wholesome food on the tables of our nation and world.

Interwater Farms Box of Apples

Interwater Farms

Williamsburg, Michigan
Founded: 1921

The land of Interwater Farms did not begin as an orchard, nor was it always known as Interwater Farms.

Vern White began his Williamsburg, Michigan farm in 1921 by raising horses and cattle. It wasn’t until his son, Jack, and Jack’s wife, Barbara, took over that the farm’s primary focus became growing apples and cherries.

The farm came to be known as Interwater Farms during an expansion in the early 1980’s when the family purchased a neighboring farm. During inspection of an old barn, they found a weathered sign that read “Interwater Farms.” Since surrounding farms all seemed to be named after the area’s dominant cherry business, they appreciated the random creativity and adopted it as their own.

Today, 400 acres of apples, cherries and peaches are operated by Jack and Barbara, as well as their four sons; David, Doug, Bill, and John. Like most fruit growers, the family has always sold some of their crop to passers-by in a small fruit stand on the road leading to the farm. It was looked upon as, “something for the grandkids to do”. But the marketing operation grew as David’s daughter came in one day to announce, “Dad, there are too many of us out there!” Now, the White family takes apples, cherries, and peaches to farm markets all around Grand Traverse Bay.

Interwater Farms was an early adopter of the HoneyCrisp apple. Growing SweeTango apples allows the family to continue their commitment to providing high culinary-quality fruit to consumers while operating a sustainable business that can be passed on to future generations.

Pepin Heights Logo

Pepin Heights Orchard

Lake City, Minn.
Founded: 1949

Owner Dennis Courtier’s parents started farming apples in 1949. An excellent growing site and careful management have allowed Pepin Heights Orchards to produce high quality fruit for more than 60 years, placing them among the top apple orchards in Minnesota today. Over the years, the orchard’s reputation for producing excellent fruit has grown, and so has our business – we now ship apples all over the country.

Pepin Heights believes that apples should taste great. We grow extraordinary apples that are available for only a short time. Our apples are hand picked, then sorted packed and stored in our state of the art facilities. So whether you shop our Lake City store or your local supermarket, choose Pepin Heights apples for their distinctive high quality and just-picked flavor.

Pepin Heights Orchards is a leader in new variety innovation. We were the first grower to commercialize the University of Minnesota’s Honeycrisp variety back in the early 1990s; it has since grown to the #6 apple variety in the United States. Pepin Heights received a license from the university in 2005 to commercialize Minneiska (trade name SweeTango®) in North America. We selected top growers and packers to form Next Big Thing, a Growers Cooperative to grow and market SweeTango in the United States and Canada. Pepin Heights transferred the SweeTango license to the cooperative in 2015.

For more information, click here.

Pine Tree Growers Family

Pine Tree Apple Orchard

White Bear Lake, Minn.
Founded: 1904

The first apple trees were planted on the shores of Pine Tree Lake in 1904. More than 100 years later, that orchard, now known as Pine Tree Orchard, is owned by Art Jacobson, a city boy from St. Paul, who dreamed of growing apples and living on the land.

In 1950, Art and his wife, Dickie, moved to the orchard and purchased it in 1958. Since that time, they have made growing apples the center of their lives. Today, all six of the Jacobson’s children (and even a few grandchildren) are actively involved in growing and marketing apples.

As the family has grown, so has their orchard. The plot of land – a mere 25 acres – has grown to more than 300 hundred acres. SweeTango apples joins the crop of strawberries, pumpkins and other apple varieties that have grown there for so many years.

For more information, click here.

Rennhack Orchards

Hart, Mich.

Third-generation family farmer Dave Rennhack grows apples, peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, cherries, & numerous vegetables on his Oceana County farm. You can find his fresh produce at Rennhack Orchards Market from June through December, along with an extensive assortment of local and Michigan-made foods, gifts, & shippable gift baskets.

For more information, click here.

Stan Peterson Fruit Tree Sales & Farms

Ludington, Mich.
Founded: 1877

Stan Peterson Orchard is a fourth generation orchard that was started in 1877. Stan Peterson Orchard is a 20-acre orchard located just two miles from Lake Michigan. Stan grows SweeTango, Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Goldens and Courtlands. Stan loves introducing the unique qualities of SweeTango to his customers.

Stan predicted the success of the Honeycrisp long before it was commercially grown in Michigan. He believes SweeTango will far exceed the Honeycrisp and if everything goes as planned it will be the key to his retirement. Stan says if the apple doesn’t pan out, his wife has the divorce papers drawn up.

For more information, click here.

Hubert Profile Pic Summit Farms

Summit Farms

Kent City, Mich.

The Hubert family has been farming in central Michigan since the late 1800’s. The original parcel, in Kent City, was 80 acres. That quickly grew to over 200 acres and, as was customary for the time, the farm had a bit of everything. Herman Hubert grew peaches and apples, raised cattle and sold milk; he farmed.

It wasn’t until the 1960’s that the family really began to focus primarily on growing fruit trees. As the operation grew, it became more vertically integrated. In 1982, Ken Hubert, Herman’s great-grandson, took over the business and the family became involved in not only growing fruit, but also packing, storing and delivering the apples. Today the family farms over 700 acres, owns a large cold storage operation (where the apples rest until they’re ready to ship), is involved in the packing and processing of apples and even has a hand in the trucking business.

Ken’s son, Victor, helps him with the farm today, and his grandson, Randy, is ready to begin his career as a Michigan apple grower. This, coupled with Ken’s declaration, “I still like to plant trees!” would seem to guarantee that the Hubert family will be farming in central Michigan for years to come.

Tom Rasch & Son Orchards

Greenville, Michigan

Tom Rasch & Sons Orchard consists of approximately 170 planted acres of apples employing a variety of training systems, such as double row free-standing and a modified axe system with multi-wire and single wire trellis systems. Located in Greenville, Mich., Tom Rasch & Sons Orchard is considered one of the top apple growers in Michigan.

Beyond the farm’s current rootstocks (MARK, M9, M106, and Bud 9), a number of new plantings have been established to keep up with demand for new varieties, including SweeTango. Rasch & Sons’ land also features a variety testing orchard with 2 to 3 trees of over 80 different varieties.

Van Agtmael Orchards

Hart, Michigan

The Van Agtmael family has been proudly farming in Hart, Michigan for one hundred years. Begun by Joe Van Agtmael as 60 acres of cattle, potatoes and asparagus, the farm today is 600 acres of cherries and apples and, the lone holdover, asparagus.

Joe’s grandson, Mike runs the farm today and transitioned the family into tree fruit as a way to take advantage of excellent growing sites and shifting markets. Mike’s education in the apple business was one of extremes, as he first planted Northern Spy, the consummate pie apple, and HoneyCrisp, the world’s most popular apple for fresh eating. Growing HoneyCrisp also taught Mike that putting extra effort into growing difficult but great tasting fruit was not only rewarding financially, but also an opportunity to see his hard work pay off in the faces of satisfied consumers. That harmonious balance of challenge and reward is what drew the family to join Next Big Thing, as well as help in the growing and marketing of SweeTango brand apples.

Working together with others in his industry has always been an important part of Mike’s career. He served on the Michigan Cherry Committee for three terms, one as Chairman. Mike has also served on the Cherry Marketing Institute Board, as well as his local school and fire boards.

Wittenbach Family

Wittenbach Orchards

Belding, Michigan
Founded: 1899

Wittenbach Orchards is a fifth generation family farm that grows over 220 acres of apples. The foundation for Wittenbach Orchards was built when Fredrick Wittenbach moved to Michigan from Switzerland and purchased the original farmstead in 1899. At one time, the farm had a dairy herd, raised sheep, and grew peaches, asparagus, apples, and row crops. Today, the farm focuses on apple production for the fresh market in addition to growing field corn and soybeans. All twelve varieties of apple trees are planted at medium to high densities and are supported by trellis systems and tree stakes. Wittenbach Orchards is a wholesale operation and the majority of the fruit is sold by a local packing house and sales agency. The remaining portion of the fruit is supplied to independently owned farm markets.

Despite his retired status, Ed Wittenbach works on the farm nearly every day, but his son, Mike, manages the operation. Mike’s eldest, Elizabeth, joined the farm after graduating from Michigan State University in 2016. The third, fourth, and fifth generations are enjoying farming together.

wood orchard growers

Wood Orchard

Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
Founded: 1955

Wood Orchard is operated by the second and third generations of their family. Wood Orchard has about 200 acres of land in Door County — 125 acres consists of apples, sweet cherries, raspberries, and strawberries. McIntosh and Cortland apples have been Wood Orchard’s main varieties for many years. Recently Honeycrisp and now SweeTango apples are the new varieties that we are growing and selling strong in their markets.

Wood Orchard believes that SweeTango will be the exciting apple variety for this decade, much like Honeycrisp was for the past 10 years. Having both Honeycrisp and SweeTango apples grown in their orchards, Wood Orchard will grow great tasting apples for their customers for years to come.

Since the first year of tasting, they have people who can’t wait for “SweeTango Season.” Customers in their market want to know the condition of our apple crop throughout the growing season, and some even start asking for SweeTango apples in July.

For more information, click here.