Ralph Yates

Fruit Acres

It’s hard to imagine anybody closer to the heart and history of Minnesota apple growing than Ralph Yates. He’s the past president of the Minnesota Apple Growers’ Association and has been its secretary for fifteen years.

The core of his Fruit Acres orchard is a stand of trees that have been cultivated since 1910. “I’m proud of the Minnesota apple industry, and the special taste of the Minnesota apple,” he says. “Our orchard is on the limestone bluffs of the Mississippi, and I believe that the mineral-rich soil there gives our apples a special complexity and sharpness of flavor.”

Yates’ background in the business spans three generations and two continents. His mother’s family grew apples in Denmark and his English-born father crossed the Channel to work in that orchard. “I grew up in the orchard business, and that’s how it gets into your blood,” says Ralph.

With a heritage like that to preserve, it’s no surprise that Yates is exacting about quality. “Many orchards expand and expand and quality suffers,” he says. “We’re really comfortable keeping our operation at 200 acres; we can give the trees and the apples the attention they need as we try to grow that perfect piece of fruit.”