You Can’t Keep a Good Berry Down

POSTED IN For Growers, For Members ON 3/17/2021

The Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America has “restarted” after tough times in 2019 and 2020 stalled all Institute business.

Although saskatoon berries are a very minor fruit crop in Michigan, with less than 100 acres, Michigan is the home of the Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America.  The Institute has been in existence since 2012, providing information and assistance to growers and marketers in Michigan, other states, and Canada (where the greatest amount of saskatoon berry production occurs).  As with many small organizations, keeping things running is difficult, and it got even harder after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.  The Institute held no public events in 2019 and 2020, and the board of the Institute simply retained their posts over these years, as no elections were held.

In late 2020 the board renewed activities with hope that 2021 would be a better year.  The annual membership meeting of the Institute was held on-line on January 21, 2021.  Although attendance was low, important business was conducted.  A.J. MacArthur, a grower from Lachine, Michigan, was selected to be the new president of the Institute.  The board decided that anyone who held a paid membership in 2019, the last year that membership fees were collected, will be granted paid member status for the year 2021.

If you have an interest in learning more about saskatoon berries, growing this fruit or the activities of the Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America, visit their web site at or contact me at


Submitted by

Duke Elsner, Small Fruit Extension Educator (Retired), Michigan State University

Industry Survey Deadline Quickly Approaches

POSTED IN For Consumers, For Growers, For Members ON 6/6/2019

The Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America is reaching out to nearly 300 farms that grow saskatoons for sale. These farms are located throughout Canada and the United States. With the results of this survey the Institute expects to identify: 1) industry wide production expectations for 2019, 2) existing distribution options for harvested saskatoons, 3) issues that most challenge growers, and 4) changes regarding industry players and production since our last survey in 2015. The outcome will be a report entitled The State of the Saskatoon Berry Industry, 2019

Each grower that completes and submits their survey will receive a copy of the complied report.

The deadline for farms to participate in the Saskatoon Growers Survey is Saturday, June 8, 2019.

2019 is shaping up to be a bumper crop for saskatoons. We have not yet received any reports of crop loss due to weather or other naturally occurring conditions.

If you are a grower, and have not yet received the survey, please click on Contact Us and request a copy of the survey. Please be sure to include your e-mail address in your communication.

If you are a consumer, and hope to acquire some saskatoons of your own later this summer, please click on Calendar to find a listing, by date, of availability in your area. Please note that many of our Institute members will not post their status until about 2 weeks before their fruit is ripe, so you may need to check in every week or two until your region has ripening fruit. Ripening dates vary by geographic region, so it would be unusual to see all growers posted on the same dates. Generally fruit is available in more southern areas as soon as early July, and in more northerly climates as late as mid-August.


About Saskatoons (also called Juneberries or Pacific serviceberries in some locations): Saskatoons (sometimes with the addition of the word berries) are a fruit that comes from Amelanchier alnifolia plants. While some suggest that saskatoons look like blueberries, they are actually a unique fruit with a very dark purple color (high in antioxidants), more firm that many berries, with a tangier, almost nutty taste.  Saskatoons are part of the Rosaceae family. Its close relatives include many common fruits such as apples, plums, cherries, apricots and almonds. Saskatoons are great to eat fresh as well as baked. Some of the harvest is used to infuse wine and other alcoholic beverages. While hard to find in processed forms, they are also sought after in juice and powder forms. In some locations consumers buy find them frozen as well as dried.


About The Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America: SBINA is an educational organization, both for growers and consumers. We neither buy or sell fruit or plants. Our goal is to see greater crop availability leading to more saskatoons being enjoyed throughout North America.

The Annual Meeting is Upon Us

POSTED IN For Members, Uncategorized ON 1/16/2019

Our annual meeting is tomorrow – Thursday, January 17 (and all are welcome). Please be sure to RSVP to Dr. Elsner at so he can plan accordingly.

By way of reminder:

Location is Grand Traverse County Michigan State University Extension Office, 520 West Front Street, Traverse City, MI, 49684.

Social time from 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM.

Official Annual Meeting begins at 7:00 PM.

Among other procedural items, the agenda will include our annual election of board members and a presentation by Duke Elsner entitled “Looking Back and Heading Forward- the MSU Connection”.

This is a great opportunity to meet growers, review lessons learned over the past year, and talk about what is coming up in 2019.

Spotted Wing Drosophila Organic Managment Methods

POSTED IN For Growers, For Members ON 7/13/2018

Spotted Wing Drosophila (Male)

In this blog we have previously discussed Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), an invasive, relatively new fruit fly overspreading North America.  While there are few reported cases of SWD affecting saskatoon berries, there is broader concern for many fruits. Therefore, we are sharing this article suggesting that there is good news regarding organic management methods for SWD. Rufus Isaacs has addressed Institute members on several other pests, but none that present such a fast growing threat to fruit crops as SWD.

While most fruit flies are only interested in fruit still hanging from bushes and trees, SWD seem content to continue their lifecycle in fallen and rotting fruit as well. So while some USDA practices call for allowing fruit to drop, this fiend uses such situations to its benefit.

It is our hope that our friends across both the US and Canada can take note of these new developments, and be encouraged as they pursue some of these methods.

You can read more at: New guide to organic management of spotted wing Drosophila released

or go directly to the full report at: Management Recommendations for Spotted Wing Drosophila in Organic Berry Crops

Some good news for this year!

POSTED IN For Consumers, For Growers, For Members ON 6/23/2018

Well, the weather appears to have been helpful for saskatoons as well as other seasonal fruit.

First off, at least some farms are seeing their fruit come in earlier than last year! Check out our directory for U-Pick locations, and by the end of this week the calendar on our website should also include actual hours for U-Pick for our members.

Secondly, a new dreaded pest seems to have been kept at bay.  While Spotted Wing Drosophila (one of the newer fruit flies in the North America) had very little impact on saskatoons for most farms last year, Michigan State University reports that their development is even father behind schedule than last year, apparently related to weather. For more on that, follow this link:

So plan ahead! Figure out how you can get your fresh fruit before it runs out! Last year the season, for many growers, was only about three weeks long, and much of the fruit was picked before the end of the second week. Best wishes to you all in getting your 2018 supply in a timely fashion, and enjoying saskatoons fresh, and in so many yummy recipes!

2017 Pest Management Information: Weeds, Insects & Unwanted Animal Consumers

POSTED IN For Growers, For Members ON 3/14/2017

Pest Management is an annual challenge for those who love to eat saskatoon berries.  While saskatoons are native to North America, there are several native, as well as invasive, pests that can challenge a healthy harvest.

Saskatoon Pest Management specialist

Dr. Erwin “Duke” Elsner, PhD

Dr. Erwin ‘Duke’ Elsner just released this year’s list of produce-rescuing recommendations, based on Michigan agricultural standards. This includes several organic options. The point of this list is to help growers identify diseases and insects that can damage plants and fruit, and then select responses for each based on the growers preferences and unique conditions.

Part of the effort here is to be very careful to encourage pollinators and other helpful insects. You can find more about how to develop pollinator habitat in our blog posts from last winter.

May you all have more than enough saskatoon berries to enjoy this coming summer!

2017 Saskatoon Disease and Insect Pesticide Recommendations

Saskatoon Fungicides 2017

Saskatoon Herbicides 2017

Saskatoon Insecticides 2017

Saskatoon Berries, like many other common foods, contain cyanide

POSTED IN For Consumers, For Members ON 8/9/2016

The topic of cyanide is not often associated with food consumption, but we have received questions from readers, so the following is an effort to pull together Apple Cyanidevarious sources for those interested in learning more. This is not common dinner table conversation material, but if you are interested in this topic, we hope that you will find this helpful. 

Saskatoons contain cyanogenic glycosides (mostly in the seeds), which can become cyanide. Saskatoons have this in common with a variety of other popular fruits such as apples, cherries, apricots, peaches and plums, as well as lima beans, spinach, soy, barley, flaxseed, cassava, bamboo shoots and almonds. As a non-scientist, the big question in my mind is whether it is present at a harmful level. Many people who have been eating saskatoons for a life time show little concern. Whether their viewpoint is based on knowledge or ignorance is, I suppose, the core question. Peach Nectarine Apricot Cherry

Cyanide gas also exists in cigarette smoke, the manufacture and burning of plastics, and the film development process. We are not aware of any case where these processes have ever resulted in cyanide-based illness, nor do we encourage the general public to experiment with these situations. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides some material at This site shares a great deal of content with the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry and the National Terror Alert Response Center.

Processed forms of cyanide have been used as deadly poisons at various times in world history. While those consequences should not be ignored or whitewashed, they do not represent cases of ‘accidental’ poisoning. It is true that many common substances, when processed and/or concentrated and/or consumed in vast quantities, can kill, including water.

We do not have a nutritionist on staff here, so cannot provide our own authoritative answer regarding the risks involved in eating saskatoons, but others have addressed this question in the past, and we list the sources we know about in this article.

Cornell Cooperative Extension in New York had this topic come up, and provided some feedback at:–-they-go-where-blueberries-can’t/ Please note that “Juneberry” is the name that many New Yorkers use for Saskatoons. This article is packed with good information. Arsenic is covered in the comments below the article, particularly in response numbers 17-19. 

It would appear that the way the cells in the body metabolize cyanide is key. Some sources look to cyanide as a cancer killer, as does this article: Others say that the healthy cells in the body have little to no trouble cleansing out the cyanide consumed in a ‘normal’ daily diet. 

Cooking can change the chemical equation of cyanide, so the answers for raw and prepared foods are a bit different. The following article, while not written about saskatoons, refers to the relationship between arsenic and heat:

To date, we are not aware of any otherwise healthy person becoming sick from saskatoons, or apples, or cherries (or any of the other foods listed above), because of naturally occurring cyanide, when they were eating a near normal quantity in their diet. 

We continue to look for information on this question, and welcome your data-based feedback.

The Economics of Growing Saskatoons

POSTED IN For Growers, For Members ON 2/16/2016

The presentation “The Economics of Growing Saskatoons” was part of the program of the Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference on Saturday, January 30th, 2016.

Subject matter includes:

  1. What saskatoon berries looks like
  2. What saskatoon bushes looks like
  3. Health benefits of saskatoon berries
  4. Growing requirements
  5. Market opportunities for fresh and processed saskatoons
  6. Costs associated with planting and maintaining a saskatoon orchard
  7. Key business practices for successful growing
  8. Essential business considerations
  9. Business planning concepts
  10. Tax considerations
  11. Insurance considerations
  12. Legal considerations
  13. A financial projection example
  14. An introduction to resources that can help


To download the program presentation, go to: SFC 2016 Econ Saskatoons

We had a good group, with many targeted questions. It was a delight to talk through both the questions for which good answers are available and the questions for which good answers are still being researched. 

What we know is that:

  • People that try saskatoon berries almost always want more saskatoon berries
  • Growers with even minimal marketing experience can sell out of their fruit
  • Working together through the Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America we are building a larger market, and working on ways to satisfy orders larger than many farms can fill by themselves

If you are already growing saskatoons, please consider joining the Institute.

If you are considering growing saskatoons, please talk the Institute and our members.

And Remember:

Eat saskatoon berries!

The Economics of Growing and Selling Saskatoon Berries

POSTED IN For Growers, For Members ON 1/11/2016

Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference

Would you benefit from knowing more about the economics of growing and selling saskatoon berries? Lets talk dollars and sense on Saturday, January 30, 2016 from 9:00 AM – 10:15 AM at The Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference, located at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. SBINA will be offering a session entitled The Economics of Growing Saskatoons, which will provide:

  1. A basic list of the costs of developing a commercial saskatoon field
  2. A general timeline of cash flows and important events
  3. Several potential markets for saskatoon berries
  4. Methods to project future revenues
  5. A discussion of relative value of cooperating with other saskatoon growers.

Come meet current growers and learn from those with the experience of walking this path already.


Last Evening’s MAEAP Training Was Tremendous

POSTED IN For Growers, For Members ON 3/27/2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 1.34.02 PMThe Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program is a voluntary, proactive environmental assurance program. Over 2,600 farms in Michigan have been verified as of this date, with many more currently in the process. Thank you to all the saskatoon growers that attended last night’s program. Clearly there are benefits to growers, consumers, the state, and the environment as this program develops. Thank you also to Laura and Jessica for your efforts. Your experience and drive are an asset for our region. The Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America will evaluate ways that we can continue to partner with MAEAP in pursuing our common goals. This program is only offered in Michigan. Each county has a MAEAP Technician that can help farms evaluate their readiness, and help with the verification process. If you live in other states, provinces or countries, you might check with local agricultural extension officer to see if there is a similar program where you live. While not quite the same as being there, you are welcome to take a look at the PowerPoint presentation for the evening: MAEAP overview Saskatoon For more information, you can also go to: