Founder Ray Burkart reunited with long-time mentor and friend Dick Matthews after a 25 year separation through a serendipitous meeting with a mutual friend in 2018. The two Tar Heel retired colonels in the Marine Corps Reserves had been globe-trotting. Dick, a veteran accomplished seafarer, had been sailing the world after a career as bank CEO, capitalist, and Vietnam veteran. Ray had been traveling to Asia, Europe, and Iraq, with a career turning around financially distressed companies.
Spending time at Dick’s residence in the Appalachians, Ray started harvesting apples from the mountain apple orchards, and late at night started experimenting in the kitchen with traditional mountain recipes. Taste tests were required by Ray’s seven children and two sons-in-law. This quickly became a passion for preserving southern mountain heritage and cuisine.
Local farmers and business folks loved the superior, savory taste, and Heaven’s Gate Orchard, LLC was born on New Year's Day of 2020. Ray was fortunate to bring on board Allen Huffman, an experienced manufacturing and quality manager, friend, former co-worker, and Air Force veteran. Allen’s wife Brenda added her sage, experienced counsel in recipe formulation.
Heaven’s Gate Orchard’s name originated when Dick’s daughter gazed down from the majestic Blue Ridge Mountain peak at the apple orchards, vista, and surrounding mountains and exclaimed with delight “Dad, this must surely be the gateway to Heaven!” Donkeys, Ike and Mamie, and resident cattle share the mountain with bear cubs, deer, fox, racoons, and whistle pigs, as well as beautiful red, blue and gold birds. Mountain wildflowers are in abundance, gracing the steep slopes.
Heaven’s Gate Orchard was founded by USA military veterans with a dream of preserving delicious traditional southern recipes and mountain culture for your family and future generations. Premium ingredients enhanced by Nana’s loving, ancestral spiritual touch. Enhance your next meal with Southern Mountain goodness.