You ask, we answer

Following are the questions we’re asked most often, and our usual answers.

Q: What is Pepin Heights doing to protect honeybees?

A: All apple growers rely on honeybees and other pollinators to pollinate our crops, so we know that it is in our best interests to protect them. (And aside from the business relationship we have with them, we find bees absolutely amazing to watch.) We rent our bees from the same top-notch beekeeper each year. While they are with us we make sure that they have plenty of water and shade, and take care not to apply pesticides while they are on-site.

Pollinator health is a complicated topic with many facets. We do our part to make sure our bees leave our orchards as healthy or healthier as they were when they arrived – and they certainly leave us well fed!

Q: What happens to your less than perfect fruit? 

A: HUH? We think all our children are beautiful! Any fruit that doesn’t score a high enough grade to be shipped to market or sold in our own Lake City store gets pressed into cider. Even our cider pomace gets enjoyed as animal feed (lucky cows!) Be assured, none of our amazing-tasting fruit goes to waste.

Q: Are Pepin Heights’ apples organic?

A:   The short answer is that while we avoid using chemicals as much as we can, we can’t grow fruit entirely organic. Here in the Midwest we get a lot of rain, and that triggers many pests and diseases in an orchard. For example, the fungal disease apple scab tends to develop after particularly rainy periods, and can damage both fruit and trees. 

That said, we are leaders in the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). That means we employ a broad toolbox of crop protection tools, using chemicals (both natural and man-made ones) only when necessary and then at a minimum. We take our responsibility to our consumers seriously, and we’re proud of what we’re doing. You can learn more about IPM on EPA.gov and Wikipedia.

Q: Have any of Pepin Heights’ apples been genetically modified?

A: Nope. Our apples all taste amazing the old fashioned way, through traditional plant cross-breeding. (Remember Gregor Mendel from seventh grade science class?)

Q: Why is there a sticker on my apple?

A: That sticker contains the data a retailer needs to ensure you are charged the correct price at checkout. The sticker’s paper, ink and adhesive are all approved “food grade” by FDA – that means that if you eat one by accident, no worries.

The 4-digit number on the sticker is called a “Price Look-up Number”, PLU for short. The retail industry is in the process of transitioning from the PLU to a scannable barcode, called a DataBar.

Q: Can I grow my own Honeycrisp tree from seeds in the apple I’m eating?

A: You could grow a tree from that seed, but it won’t produce Honeycrisp. Instead, it will produce fruit that’s a cross between Honeycrisp and whichever variety supplied the pollen that fertilized the Honeycrisp blossom that turned into that seed. So theoretically every seed in an apple would grow a slightly different variety from its Honeycrisp mom (A bit mind blowing, isn’t it?)