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To save pollinators, Twin Cities grocers tempt shoppers with First Kiss apples

That’s local apple magnate Don Roper, VP of Sales and Marketing for Honeybear Brands, waxing nostalgic for an apple 2018’s Minnesota State Fair was all a’buzz about: First Kiss.

In the years since, the Minnesota-bred descendant of the Honeycrisp (about as close as we’re likely to get to a celebrity fruit) has been positioned as the Next Big Thing in tree orbs.

Backing up two steps: Honeybear is based out of Elgin, Minnesota and began as a family-run orchard in the 1970s. Today, the second and third-generation farmers are leading provider of Honeycrisp and Pazazz apples in the region. They’ve also started producing the new First Kiss variety, which was developed at the University of Minnesota, arrives early in the growing season, and can sell out in mere weeks thanks to sky-high demand and limited availability.

But like so many of us, Roper wasn’t bemoaning a loss of sales this year; he understands what it means to bridge a chasm of opportunity left by the fair that wasn’t. This means more than just figuring out how to introduce these specialty splendors to our mouths.

There’s a crucial educational component at play, too.

These Eve-tempters wouldn’t be possible without the power of bees. Pollinators are responsible for one third of our food, and yet their populations are steeply declining, so helping their populations thrive for the future of farming and, well, eating in general is urgent.

Knowing this all too well, the farmers responsible for the apples we love have teamed up with the National Honey Board and local grocers Lunds & Byerlys, Cub Foods, and Target. Their mission is to help connect these dots – from sweet honeybees to harvest darlings, so we can avoid apocalyptic empty plates on the horizon – raising awareness about the fragility of our food chain by way of in-store displays located in participating stores’ produce sections.

“In the busyness of life, we can sometimes forget how fragile the food system can be, so these displays are a great way to remind shoppers about the need for pollinators, and maybe even inspire them to plant their own pollinator gardens,” said Honeybear ‘s Kristi Harris, via statement.

A portion of proceeds from Honeybear’s sales during the month of September will also be directed to the development of pollinator habitats alongside their apple orchards. Harris says Cub Foods has already pledged to contribute acres of sponsored pollinator habitat, in addition to hosting displays throughout September… which just so happens to be National Honey Month.

While at first glance it might seem self-serving to fund planting wildflowers next to a business’s own fruit trees, bear in mind: Bees can’t be told where to buzzzz… except by their queen. Any increase in these habitats positively impacts native pollinator abundance, which trickles down to our food supply chain.

There might never be a better time to (digitally?) give your kid’s teacher an apple, huh?





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Victoria Friedrich

Lakes area buzz blogger

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