Pepin Heights Orchards

Pepin Heights Orchards's picture

Employer Summary

We admit it, we are apple fanatics.

We travel the globe to find the best tasting apples. We bring them home to our orchards on the bluffs above the Mississippi River, great apple-growing land. We tend our trees with expert care and cutting-edge technology. We harvest their fruit at just the right time for the best flavor. Every apple is hand picked, and then inspected by human eyes before being packed with care. We sell our apples only through partners who share our vision for good food.

Does that make us snobs? Nope, “just” foodies. We don’t take ourselves all that seriously, but we do have great passion for what we do. And we love to come to work every day.

Growing Minnesota’s favorite apples since 1949

Pepin Heights Owner Dennis Courtier’s parents, Gil and Evelyn, started planting our first 15-acre orchard in 1949. Dennis bought the company in 1978. Over the next couple of decades he grew Pepin Heights into the largest apple orchards in Minnesota, and one of the most reputable apple businesses in the United States.

Today, industry visitors travel from around the world to rural Lake City, Minnesota, to visit Pepin Heights.

We wrote the first chapters of the Honeycrisp story

Pepin Heights is very proud to be the first commercial apple producer to see the potential for this variety.

Dennis Courtier first tasted MN 1711 – the test variety that would eventually be named Honeycrisp – in the late 1980s. He discovered it while sampling apples from the University of Minnesota’s apple breeding program orchards. We first planted test trees at Pepin Heights shortly thereafter. As a result, our orchards are home to the oldest commercial Honeycrisp trees in the country outside of “the U”.

Frankly, it took a few years for the variety to win us over. While Honeycrisp is a great tasting apple, it is difficult to grow. It took us many more years to build the initial market for what has since become a national apple phenomenon.

While the variety is now grown coast to coast, our experience has taught is that all Honeycrisp are not created equal. Like many other apple varieties, Honeycrisp prefers a certain geography – including our bluff-top orchards overlooking the Mississippi River.

The next big thing: SweeTango®

And now Pepin Heights is doing it again, with SweeTango – another apple variety developed by the University of Minnesota.

Dennis first tasted fruit from the test variety MN 1914 in 2002. He became convinced the variety had potential after tasting fruit that had been left on the tree past what was originally thought to be its harvest window. We planted test trees in 2003. The university subsequently gave MN 1914 trees the name of Minnieska, and separately named the fruit SweeTango.

In 2005, the university sought to license the rights to grow and market SweeTango. Pepin Heights competed for and won the North American license.

To build the supply chain for SweeTango, we selected growers and marketers across the country and in Canada to form the Next Big Thing, A Growers’ Cooperative. We grow and pack SweeTango to high-quality standards, and sell them to select North American retailers, large and small alike. The first SweeTango appeared in stores in 2009. For more information, visit SweeTango.com