“Novel Berry Crops” Grant for MSU Research

POSTED IN Uncategorized ON 7/3/2016

Saskatoon berries, goji berries, honeyberries, aronia berries — unfamiliar names to Michigan growers and consumers, but perhaps not for long. Michigan State University is about to launch studies on these novel berry crops, looking for the best varieties of these berries for the state’s climate, soils and marketing opportunities.

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Saskatoon berries

Saskatoons are the best known of these crops in North America, with over two million pounds produced annually in Canada. The various named varieties were derived from wild selections of Amelanchier alnifolia, a shrub native to several western states and Canadian provinces.

Saskatoons are closely related to the Juneberry or Serviceberry of eastern North America. They look very much like blueberries in appearance, but their flavor is uniquely different (some call it sweet nutty almond). Unlike blueberries that can only be grown on acidic soils, saskatoon berries can tolerate a wider range of soils in the neutral to alkaline range.

Saskatoons ripen earlier than most blueberries and are excellent eaten fresh or in pies, jellies, jams, syrups and wine. Human health benefits are associated with their high contents of phenolics, flavonols and anthocyanins.

Michigan currently is the leading producer of saskatoons in the United States, even though there are fewer than 20 acres in full production in the state.

Dr. Erwin "Duke" Elsner, PhD

Erwin “Duke” Elsner, PhD

About as many more acres will be reaching productive age in a short time. A team of Michigan State University campusfaculty and field staff recently received grant funding for a saskatoon berry variety trial to be conducted at four sites in the state. The sites are at Traverse City, East Lansing at the MSU Horticulture Teaching and Research Farm, Bay Mills in Chippewa County and the Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center in Alger County.

Six promising varieties will be tested at each site. Each of these sites also will have a small variety trial of eight honeyberry, five goji berry and two aronia berry varieties. All of these berry crops are known to be very cold tolerant, so we are expecting good survival and fruiting almost anywhere in Michigan.



Honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea), also known as haskaps, are native to northern Europe, Asia and North America.

Plants are adapted to many soils and produce small, elongated blue berries that are typically sweet and mild. Their flavor lies somewhere between blueberries and raspberries.

Goji berries

Goji berries


Goji is a traditional Chinese berry that is increasingly in demand globally for perceived medicinal properties. This fruit is a member of the Solanaceae family and it has a mild tomato-like flavor.

Demand in the U.S. and globally has exploded because of perceived health benefits.


Aronia/Black Chokeberry

Aronia or black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) is a Rosaceae species native to North America and Europe. It is widely grown in Eastern Europe and Russia. The fruit primarily is used for juice, but blended with juice from other less astringent fruits. Aronia has a very high anti-oxidant content.

Saskatoon berries soon will be ripening in the Grand Traverse region. Listings of growers offering U-pick berries and other saskatoon products can be found in the calendar of events page of the Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America’s web site: http://saskatoonberryinstitute.org/events.

Erwin “Duke” Elsner is a small fruit educator for the Grand Traverse County MSU Extension.

To see this article on The Record Eagle website regarding the Novel berry Crops grant, go to: http://www.record-eagle.com/news/business/agriculture-forum-studies-to-launch-on-novel-berry-crops/article_929e37d7-6738-5278-a73d-7a97d5689e39.html

The Saskatoon Berries Are Here!

POSTED IN Uncategorized ON 7/1/2016

Fresh 2016 Saskatoon Berries are now available in northern Michigan, for a limited time only. The season is expected to last 2-3 weeks. Don’t miss out!

You can  find fresh berries at both of Oleson’s Food Markets (Traverse City locations only), The Village Markets in Elk Rapids and Rapid City as well as Evergreen Market on US 31 north of Acme.

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You can also buy fresh saskatoons at the Elk Rapids Farmers Market on Friday mornings for the next couple of weeks, along with saskatoon jam and pie fillings.

U-Pick is now available at Jacob’s Farm, The Saskatoon Berry Patch and Saskatoon Michigan. Locations and hours can be viewed at our Events page at: http://saskatoonberryinstitute.org/events/. Other locations will be added as we learn of them.

Fresh berries are great to eat by the handful as well as on cereal and ice cream. They are also a great baking and jamming fruit.

There is really nothing else quite like a saskatoon berry. They look rather like blueberries, but they are much more closely associated with apples. They have a nutty almond-like flavor, and they are packed with nutrients as well as fiber, protein and antioxidants.

You can buy saskatoon berries now and freeze them, but you cannot buy them fresh after about the end of the month. This fruit is locally grown, but cannot grow in Mexico or southern California, so it is a summer only fruit. Don’t hesitate. Come to one of the locations shown above or visit other businesses or wild bushes and get yours today!

Installing and Monitoring American Kestrel Nest Boxes

POSTED IN Uncategorized ON 4/8/2016

Are you looking for a way to control rodents and insects in your saskatoon berry orchard? One natural option may be to encourage a new guest – Kestrel hawks.

Click here to learn more about Kestrels

Growing Wealth As A Saskatoon Farmer

POSTED IN For Members, Uncategorized ON 1/16/2015

The Northwest Michigan Orchard & Vineyard Show hosted a Saskatoon Break Out Day on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015. Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 10.27.00 AMThe morning’s program included: fruit grading, the Farm Service Agency (including how crop insurance might work for saskatoons), insects, diseases, mechanical harvesting and presentation and discussion by members for The Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America. The available slides for the morning session can be viewed as pdf by clicking on the following: MSU Slides The afternoon program, entitled Growing Wealth As A Saskatoon Farmer, covered fundamentals of business practices, financial practices, tax practices, insurance practices and legal practices to take saskatoon farming from a hobby stage to a long-term, future-building company. The slides for that afternoon session can be viewed as  pdf by clicking on the following: Growing Wealth Slides  

January 14th Saskatoon Berry Break Out Session Agenda

POSTED IN Uncategorized ON 1/6/2015

On Wednesday, January 14th the Institute will host a day long Saskatoon Berry Break Out Session at the 2015 Northwest Michigan Orchard and Vineyard Show at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. The agenda is as follows:

Wednesday, January 14                                        

Concurrent Saskatoon Session               Room – Peninsula A

Moderator:                Dr. Duke Elsner, MSU Extension

9:00 – 9:20                  Introduction to Fruit Grading and Its Uses

                                     Dr. Duke Elsner, MSU Extension

9:20 – 10:00                Farm Service Agency- What We Can Do For You

                                    Kathy Kozlowski, USDA FSA, Traverse City

10:00 – 10:30              Vendor Break

10:30 – 11:00              Important Insects and Diseases Attacking Saskatoon Roots

                                     Dr. Duke Elsner, MSU Extension

11:00 – 11:30              Mechanical Harvesting Tests in 2014

                                      Jim Dixon, Grower, Williamsburg

11:30 – 12:00              Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America report

                                     SBIONA Board Members and Staff

12:00 – 1:30                Fill Out Pesticide Recertification Forms (2 credits)

12:00 – 1:30                Lunch On Your Own

1:00 – 5:00                  Growing Wealth as a Saskatoon Farmer

                                     Chuck Curtiss, RECON Intelligence Services

1:10 – 1:40                 Business Practices To Grow Wealth as a Saskatoon Grower

                                    Chuck Curtiss, RECON Intelligence Services

1:40 – 2:10                 Financial Practices To Grow Wealth as Saskatoon Grower

                                    Chuck Curtiss, RECON Intelligence Services

2:10 – 2:40                 Tax Practices to Grow Wealth as a Saskatoon Grower

                                    Bob Hoffman, CPA, Hoffman CPA Firm PLC

2:40 – 3:10                 Break

3:10 – 3:40                 Insurance Practices to Protect Wealth as a Saskatoon Grower

                                    Garrett Boursaw, Ford Insurance

3:40 – 4:10                 Legal Practices to Protect Wealth as a Saskatoon Grower 

                                     Nicole Graf, Partner, Alward Fisher Rice Rowe & Graf

4:10 – 4:40                 Group Discussion on Opportunities and Challenges of Cooperation

                                    Chuck Curtiss, RECON Intelligence Services

4:40 — 5:00                 Wrap Up and Closing Comments

Time Magazine Reports On Saskatoon Berries

POSTED IN Uncategorized ON 8/26/2014

Time Logo The news magazine “Time” ran a story in their current issue saying that Americans want to change the name of saskatoon berries. Amelanchier varieties have, throughout the last few hundred year, had several names in various regions and languages. While some may use a different name, it is clearly not true of this organization. We would not be The Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America if we had decided to use a different name for the fruit. Of course, regardless of what it is called, these berries are great tasting, healthy snacks. Amelanchiers are native to several parts of Canada and the U.S. The story points out that commercial production of saskatoon berries really started in Canada, for which we are thankful. Dragon’s Den, the show in which Sandra Purdy pitched her project, is like Shark Tank in the U.S., and brought a great deal of attention in Canada to the commercial production of saskatoons. For our part, we are not looking for a fight. We like the Super-Food, but not the concept of a “War” as reflected in Time’s article. We love what we do, and we love seeing the faces of those who try saskatoons for the first time. Thank you, Time, for introducing many more Americans to this fruit. And thank you to the Canadians who had the foresight to mass produce saskatoons. To read the article, click here.

Vallads Saskatoon Berry Farm Offers U-Pick Hours

POSTED IN Uncategorized ON 7/13/2014

Sam Vallad says his crop in Kalkaska is ready for U-Pickers.

Come on out and enjoy this exceptional super fruit!  You can eat them fresh or in a variety to yummy recipes.

Saskatoon Berries Spread Further North to Village Markets

POSTED IN Uncategorized ON 7/9/2014

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Village Market Stores in Elk Rapids, Rapid City and Central Lake are now selling fresh saskatoon berries.

These special berries are growing in popularity as fruit fans are introduced to their unique taste and versatility.  Saskatoons are great fresh, in fruit salad, on breakfast cereal, on ice cream, or by the handful. They can also be used in pie, jam, biscuits, muffins, pancakes, meat sauce, and a variety of beverages.

While this fruit is new to many Michiganders, it has been growing on the Northern US and the Canadian provinces for hundreds of years.

You can learn more, below, in this blog and on the About Saskatoons tab.

Spring Pruning of Saskatoon Bushes

POSTED IN For Consumers, For Growers, Uncategorized ON 5/5/2014

While pruning is not required for saskatoon bushes, it can be a valuable way to increase the size and ripeness of fruit. The picture below shows a field of pruned bushes. AJ pruning photo1   In the lane on the left you can see the brush that has been pruned. On the right, the brush has been chipped with a modified flail mower. This picture and description were provided by Amy MacArthur of AJ’s Garden & Produce (ajsberryfarm@gmail.com).

Saskatoons Ready For Processing

POSTED IN Uncategorized ON 11/8/2013

This is how saskatoons are collected in bulk, to be used in jams, pies, syrups, and variety of baked goods. Some farms also provide fruit to wineries and distilleries.Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 1.46.20 PM