Hear that buzz? It’s SweeTango apples coming to market
Expectations are high for SweeTango, which is a cross of two successful varieties from Minnesota—Honeycrisp and Zestar!
Photo courtesy of Next Big Thing.
SweeTango apples will, nature cooperating, begin flowing to market in commercial quantities in late August.
Tim Byrne, president of Next Big Thing, a cooperative formed in 2006 to develop and market the variety, said SweeTango apples are coming to market fast. Dennis Courtier, president of Pepin Heights Orchards in Lake City, Minnesota, purchased rights to the new apple (formerly known as MN 1914) in December of 2005 and by July 2006 had put together a cooperative of 64 growers to produce them—selling them on the idea of bringing a superior club apple to market fast. Planting started in 2007.
Now, Byrne said, there are 500,000 trees in the ground in the United States, and another 25,000 in Nova Scotia, where planting was delayed to 2009 by the process of making sure they were certified virus free.
“We ramped up fast,” Byrne said. “We budded trees and planted like crazy.” The trees were produced at three nurseries—Willow Drive in
Tim Byrne is president of Next Big Thing, the grower cooperative that will market SweeTango as a managed variety.
Photo: Richard Lehnert
Ephrata, Washington, Cameron Nursery in Eltopia, Washington, and Adams County Nursery in Aspers, Pennyslvania.
He guesses that this year’s production will amount to 30 bins per acre from 500 acres of high-density plantings in their fourth leaf. The apples should ripen the last week of August in Pasco, Washington, and September 9-15 in the Midwest and New York, Byrne said.
The cooperative has diversified production across North America, lessening weather risk and producing fruit closer to markets. Not only does this reduce transportation costs, but it also brings fresh apples to local markets where fresh and local are selling points.
Production and marketing stretches from Washington to Nova Scotia, and there are four separate sales desks, but all working off one price sheet. In Washington, Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee is coordinating sales and production from a half-dozen large growers. Three growers in Washington will be producing SweeTango apples organically.
In the Midwest, Pepin Heights will handle packing and marketing of apples produced by 18 cooperative partners in Michigan, one in Wisconsin, and three in Minnesota. The Michigan apples will be shipped to Minnesota for packing this year, but a packing plant in Michigan is being considered, Byrne said.
In New York, 15 partners will funnel their apples either to Fowler Farms, Wolcott, New York, or Lake Ontario Fruit, Albion, New York, for packing. Fowler Farms will manage all the sales activities for the New York-grown fruit.
Seventy-five percent of the SweeTango apples will be grown east of the Mississippi River, Byrne said. “Growing the fruit nearer to the end user makes economic and qualitative sense,” he added.
In Nova Scotia, Scotian Gold Cooperative will sell apples produced by 20 growers. Scotian Gold counts as one member, not 20, so NBT is made up of 45 partners but 64 growers.
In Minnesota, SweeTango apples will also be available at farm and farmers’ markets. The apple was created at Minnesota’s land grant university, and provisions were made to make up to 1,000 trees available to any Minnesota grower who markets directly to consumers.