Episode 241: John Jacobson

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“The SweeTango apple still holds the Guiness World Record for the loudest crunch in the world!”

Lori Taylor (7:51-7:58)

The immense array of apple varieties we have to choose from today is a far cry from the 60’s and 70’s where the only options were sweet apples, like Red Delicious, or local varieties like Haralson, a native breed to Minnesota. Once the University of Minnesota started to release Honeycrisp apples in the 90’s, we were introduced to a whole, new world of apple growing possibilities! 

Thanks to growers like Pine Tree Apple Orchard, we now have access to delicious varieties like SweeTango, which holds the Guiness World Record for loudest crunch in the world! Pine Tree Apple Orchard started in 1904 in the Northeast side of Minnesota. After working for Pine Tree for eight years, John Jacobson’s father decided to buy it in 1958. What once was a small, 25-acre orchard now spans over 150 acres in two locations, growing apple varieties like Zestar, First Kiss, Duchess, Chestnut Crab, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, SweeTango and more.

A combination of Honeycrisp and Zestar, SweeTango apples are a bright mix of sweet and tart flavor, with a loud, juicy crunch. “I think we can all agree that the Sweet Tango tastes like none other. It has a natural, honey-like taste to it, and the crunch is exemplary,” says Lori Taylor.  The Jacobson growers at Pine Tree decided to grow SweeTango apples in 2008, and it took about six years to ramp up their pipeline and guarantee there’d be enough supply to introduce it around the United States. They’re working towards a year-round supply and part of what supports that is having a diverse group of locations where the SweeTango apples can be stored. This helps support different retailers, local stores, is more climate-friendly, and reduces transportation miles. SweeTango season is from July through the end of October, and sometimes through Thanksgiving if there’s enough supply.  SweeTango has proven its success season after season, ranking as the top club apple and one of the top 10 apple varieties when it’s in the market. Pine Tree certainly knows what they’re doing when it comes to growing SweeTangos, too. They’re a part of the Next Big Thing cooperative, which is made up of 45 members (other growers) who rave about the top quality and consistency of their apples year after year. But how does Pine Tree guarantee their unwavering apple quality, even with uncontrollable environmental factors?

“Farmers are the ultimate risk taker, even more so than professional poker players in Vegas. You guys are literally gambling every single day with your likelihood and the decisions you made for what you’re going to do as a family business.” Lori Taylor (8:27-8:43)

For one, Pine Tree uses trickle irrigation on all of their high value apples, meaning even when Minnesota is going through a drought during summer, these apples still get water supply. Also, John puts up hail nettings to protect the apple trees during major storms. They’ve been so effective that when hailstorms have come through and the trees remained undamaged. It’s potential threats like this that prove what makes the co-op so beneficial. With members from around the U.S., each grower has plenty of tips, tricks and insight to share that can help mitigate a disaster or an entire growing season gone to waste.  If you think about it, farmers and growers are the ultimate risk takers, even above professional poker players. They’re risking their livelihood with every seed planted, all in the hopes of providing consumers with healthy, delicious produce we’ll want to purchase week after week. Pine Tree is doing a great job of spreading the word about their SweeTangos and other incredible varieties using super fans on social media and word of mouth tactics. Sharing social media links at farmers markets and paying special attention to their loyal buyers and fans is helping Pine Tree grow their reach. If your mouth is watering for a SweeTango apple, you can purchase directly from their local farm in Minnesota, or order holiday gift boxes for family and friends! 


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About Lori

Lori Taylor is the Founder & CEO of The Produce Moms. For ten years she sold fresh produce to over 300 grocery stores throughout the United States, and today she is fully focused on working with the produce supply chain, media, and government to increase fresh produce access & consumption in the US and around the globe. Connect with Lori on LinkedIn.

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