Most apples need pollen from a different variety of apple to set fruit. This process is called “cross-pollination” and orchardists work hard to ensure compatible varieties are planted near one another so the apples will be juicy and sweet.
One sunny spring day, a honey bee was buzzing throughout Mr. Nystrom’s orchard, collecting nectar and cross-pollinating apple blossoms along the way. The honey bee stopped at an unknown tree and collected nectar and pollen from a blossom. As the day went on, the little honey bee passed that pollen onto a Honeycrisp tree. Little did this bee know its cross-pollination between a Honeycrisp and an unknown variety had just resulted in the beloved SugarBee® apple we know and enjoy today!
Months later, when apples of every shape and color began to grow, Mr. Nystrom discovered this all new variety of apple in his orchard! It was large and round, with bright red and yellow coloring. He took a bite…. “Yum!” The apple had a crispy firm texture and was unbelievably sugar-sweet. He was thrilled and spread word far and wide of a new delicious apple variety, which he then called B-51, commenting again and again on its sweet and crunchy nature.
Over a thousand miles away in the elevated orchards of Washington state, word of this sweet new apple got to growers at Chelan Fruit Cooperative and Gebbers Farms. After speaking with their marketing company, Chelan Fresh, everyone agreed “we must have this apple!” Thanks to Central Washington’s warm summer days, cool evening breezes and Yakima County’s fertile valleys, Chelan Fresh orchards offer the ideal growing conditions for the apple. In 2013 Mr. Nystrom agreed they were the perfect candidates to grow B-51 (later patented as CN-121).
Because this apple formed from the cross-pollination of a honey bee and has a sugary-sweet flavor, the team at Chelan Fresh gave B-51 an official (and very fitting) name: SugarBee®!
The SugarBee® apple was created on a sunny spring day when an industrious bee carried pollen from an unknown variety and landed on a Honeycrisp tree and the SugarBee® apple was born. Grower Chuck Nystrom noticed the branch in his orchard as it produced a beautiful bi-colored apple that was crisp, sweet and juicy. The growers at Chelan Fresh agreed with Mr. Nystom and made the decision to grow the SugarBee® apple.
Many of our SugarBee® growers are part of 3rd and 4th generation families who are passionate about growing high quality apples, pears and cherries. They are committed to best agriculture and business practices so that their families can continue to farm for future generations.
One of our growers is Harold Schell, who manages variety development to determine what new varieties will be friendly to grow, harvest, pack, and also have consumer appeal. Harold has been lovingly nick-named the “Manny”of SugarBee® apples, as he applies over 40 years of experience to nurture new varieties such as the SugarBee®.
Jeff LaPorte and his family are proud growers of SugarBee® and honeycrisp apples on their acreage. Jeff also works to advise many of our growers on best growing practices to produce high quality Chelan Fresh fruit.
Mark Stennes is a 4th generation grower and his family has farming roots that date back to the early 1900’s. The Stennes family is committed to create opportunities for future family members to become part of the family operation by growing a variety of apples, cherries and pears using both conventional and organic practices.
Tom Riggan was born into an agriculture family and followed his knowledge of apples, pears & cherries to working in sales and management. Tom rarely misses an opportunity to get out in the orchard and stay connected with the crops. He spends his remaining free time attending kids’ activities and long distance bike riding.
Jim Colbert brings 35 years of experience in Horticulture and pest management to his current position as Organic Program & Packaging manager at Chelan Fruit. His 3rd generation grower roots keep him passionate about spending time in his family orchard and when he can break away, he enjoys snow and waterskiing.
Chuck Nystrom of Ocheda Orchard is an apple grower in Worthington, MN. He discovered an open pollinated seedling from Honeycrisp apples. This seedling was later named SugarBee® and is now sold exclusively by Chelan Fresh!
Gebbers Farms has become one of the top apple growers in the northwestern U.S. With many thousands of acres of engineered orchard and strategically located high up at the base of Washington state’s Cascade Range, the renowned Gebbers family has practiced the art of freshness for well over a century. Their growing seasons offer cooler days and crisp nights – ideal for growing fragile fruit like apples.