Meet the perfectionists
Pazazz is picky. It demands attention and the perfect micro-climate of rainfall, moisture and clear, cool nights. Today Pazazz is painstakingly grown on the high elevation flats of the Okanogan in the Washington Cascades; along the cool river bluffs of the Mississippi River in Minnesota and Wisconsin; in upstate New York by Lake Ontario and in Nova Scotia by the Bay of Fundy.
Ecker’s Apple Farm
If ever there were a true family business, Ecker’s Apple Farms is it. Originally started in 1945 by her husband’s grandfather, the Ecker’s Apple Farm orchards are now owned by Mary Ecker, who’s been hard at since 1977.
Located in stunning, sun-dappled Trempleau Wisconsin, today the Ecker’s team also includes Mary’s daughters Sarah and Jess, as well as son-in-law Simon, who gave up his native Melbourne Australia to join the family. And they’re busy. Ecker’s Farm produces more than 20 different apple varieties, runs a busy pick your own orchard complete with tractor ride, a thriving home baked pie shop and Hog’s Back Brew Farm, a must-stop weekend craft beer garden popular with locals and visitors alike.
Sacia Orchards is arguably the oldest orchard in Wisconsin. First purchased and planted in 1898 by Fred Sacia, the original Galesville Sacia orchard has grown to four, totaling 240 acres, growing 20 varieties. The orchards are currently owned by Dr. Dave Morris and Fred Sacia’s granddaughter, Sacia Morris who first purchased the farm in 1980.
Together the Morris’ have spent more than 35 years perfecting their apple growing techniques, adding high density plantings and expanding the orchards into a thriving business that also includes a farm market selling fresh baked pies, jams, jellies and local favorites.
La Crescent, Minnesota
Located in La Crescent, WI, one of Minnesota’s finest apple growing areas, Fred Sandvik has been running Hickory Orchards for more than 30 years, although he says he got his first taste for apple orchards when he was 13.
Spanning 85 scenic acres, Hickory Orchards today grows a wide variety of the region’s most popular apple varieties including Harrelson, 30 acres of Honeycrisp, 27 acres of Pazazz and six of Riverbelle.
Fred received a marketing degree from Mankato state, spent three years in the military before finding his true passion for growing apples.
Oakwood Fruit Farms
Richland Center, Wisconsin
One of the oldest established growing operations in the Honeybear Brands family of growers, Oakwood Fruit Farms has been in business since the early 1900s. First planted by Albert Louis and expanded in the 1930s by Bill Louis, most of the modern day expansion happened in the 1950s when John Louis became involved.
Oakwood is now run by the Louis and Alvin families and consists of more than 200 acres, producing 20 different apple varieties. The Farm’s popular retail store is a center for locals and visitors to the region alike selling fresh donuts, apple cider, fresh and frozen baked pies. Apples grown at Oakwood include Macintosh, Zestar, Honeycrisp and Pazzaz among others.
Owner Steve Louis says one of Oakwood’s success secrets is the incredibly fertile soil and perfect growing climate of southern Wisconsin.
Bridal Rock Orchard
Lake City, Minnesota
Chuck Bremer’s got the perfect spot for growing Minnesota and Wisconsin’s favorite apple varieties: a sunny hill top orchard overlooking the beautiful waters of Lake Pepin, MN. Plus his brother Rick’s orchard is right next-door.
Originally a dairy farmer, Chuck got into the apple business in 1983 and has been out in his orchard ever since tending to 40 acres of Riverbelle, Honeycrisp, Harrelson and Pazazz.
Van Lin Orchards
La Crescent, Minnesota
A second-generation owner of Van Lin orchards since 1991, Rick Van Lin jokes he was born into the apple business. His father purchased a dairy farm on the same rolling hills in beautiful La Crescent, WI and planted the original apple trees in 1961.
Today the orchards produce more than 15 different varieties of apples from Gala and Harrelson to new premium varieties including local favorite Riverbelle and ten planted acres of premium winter variety Pazazz.
Bushel and Peck Orchard
Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
Situated on a scenic ridge nestled between the Chippewa and Eau Claire River Valleys, Bushel and Peck Orchard was first planted more than a century ago. Today it’s home to more than 30 varieties, 13,000 trees and a thriving customer business offering fresh baked pies, a pumpkin patch in fall, outdoor bowling and a three acre corn maze.
Owned and run by Wayne Geist and family, Bushel and Peck, like all Honeybear Brands growers, believes in careful nurturing and minimally invasive farming to produce the very best eating apples.
Dan Abelman worked out in the field for Xcel Energy for years, but these days is putting his energy into growing some of the finest apples in the area. Dan grew up in the Faribault, MN area and always dreamed of spending his days in the orchard. But it wasn’t until he retired from his day job that he could commit fully to his passion.
Dan’s orchards now span 25 acres with 12,000 planted trees. Among other varieties he grows Zestars and the all-new Pazazz variety.
Lake City, Minnesota
If they handed out long service achievement awards in the apple industry, Rick Bremer would be first in line. He and his wife Cheryl and their family have been hard at work nurturing, growing and building their apple orchard business in Lake City, Minnesota since 1983.
Tucked away not far from the picturesque shoreline of Lake Pepin, Minnesota and the quaint town of Lake City, Bremer Orchards today spans 50 well-planted acres of some of the best apples grown anywhere in the Mississippi River Valley. Varieties include RiverBelle, a regional favorite that always sells out in late summer, as well as Regents, Honeycrisp and of course, Pazazz, the star variety from Honeybear Brands, planted across 24 acres.
Over the years Rick’s played a key role in local as well as far flung apple growing. In the past his orchards were used by the University of Minnesota and visited by apple producers from France, interested in learning more about growing Honeycrisp. Today like all Honeybear growers in the region, he’s an active participant in Honeybear’s TruEarth program, a new protocol to protect the land.
Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
Tom Ferguson made himself a promise: that when he turned 50 he’d say goodbye to a successful career in corporate America and find a way to become a farmer. Lucky he did. Tom’s now the proud owner of a thriving family-run apple business with 100,000 apple trees spanning three locations in Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls and Galesville, Wisconsin where apples have been grown on the same land since the 1870s.
Tom and his wife Deb got their start in the apple business when they moved their young family from sunny Southern California to their original Galesville orchard in 2001. They got to work learning everything about growing apples – and their early study paid off big time. In 2014 they became the largest single grower of Honeybear’s exciting new Pazazz variety when they planted 35 acres and 40,000 Pazazz trees.
Today Ferguson’s orchards are even more of a family business with their busy staff also consisting of their two sons, their wives and young children. Joe Ferguson, a former marine returned from service and moved to the farm, while his brother Andy, gave up his law practice to become a co-owner of the orchard in 2013.
Van Meekeren Farms
Annapolis Valley – Kentville, Nova Scotia
Brothers Stephen and Michael Van Meekeren are the third generation of family orchardists that began growing fruit more than 50 years ago in the early 1960s. Located in the picturesque Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, Canada, the Van Meekeren orchards offer an ideal growing climate with warm days, cool nights, fertile valley soil, and ocean mist that creates the perfect environment to grow apples of outstanding color and flavor.
“We have the great fortune of being selective in the new varieties that we choose to grow. Pazazz fits our criteria for an apple that gives our customers a healthy and exceptional eating experience. All you need to do is taste it and you’ll understand – Wow Right Now,” says Michael Van Meekeren.
Upper Mississippi River Valley – Elgin, MN
Fred Wescott has been growing apples in the small southeast Minnesota town of Elgin for more than 40 years. In the 1970s, Fred took over his father’s hobby orchard and transformed it into a successful national business that packs, ships and sells the best regional apple varieties to retailers all over the country.
Fred is the president of Mississippi Valley Fruit Company, that grows, packs and markets regional fruit for 20 family run orchards in MN & WI. He has taken his passion for apples to another by building one of the industry’s most successful Varietal Development programs, creating new consumer favorites Pazazz and RiverBelle.
In addition to distributing some of the finest apples in the upper Midwest, Wescott Orchards is part of a community of family farmers dedicated to being good stewards of the environment. Wescott was the key driver behind the TruEarth program, which was developed to enhance sustainable and holistic farming practices to grow the highest quality fruit.
Our First Grower
Four decades ago our original grower, Robert “Doc” Wescott had two crazy ideas: to have 13 kids and to start an apple orchard. He put both to good use – and today Wescott Agri Products/Honeybear Brands is one of the leading developers of new apple varieties in the United States. That sounds pretty fancy, but Wescott is still family owned in Elgin, Minnesota and still knows the real value of being out in our orchards every day. There’s a reason they call us hands on. We’re involved in every step of bringing Pazazz to market from growing to packing to shipping and delivery.