- Fruits: berries (other)
- Farm Business Management: cooperatives, marketing management, feasibility study, agricultural finance, market study, value added
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities
The primary issue we address is whether small sustainable/organic farmers can further diversify their businesses by profitably growing and processing elderberries in MN. With emerging niche markets, the issue is almost NEVER that of “production” but of “marketing”. Experiences in other places suggest that a mix of market opportunities may be accessible to small growers (sales of fruit to wineries, sales of juice or jellies at farmers markets, etc), but no such research has been done to assess these opportunities for Minnesota producers. Further, we see a vision for small growers to share in elderberry processing capacity through a growers cooperative, something which has not been done in Missouri or elsewhere.
The four growers affiliated with this application have been searching for new crops that strengthen our operations by accessing new markets (i.e. health conscious consumers). Each has been engaged for several years in commercial small fruit production, though with a diversity of marketing strategies. Each has made investments in understanding the evolution of elderberry production and processing in the US, particularly through relationships with growers, processors and retailers in Missouri. We have held grower information sessions in 2012 that have consistently attracted 30-50 other interested producers. We know there is interest in seeing whether we might extend what has been learned in Missouri to our situation in Minnesota.
Project objectives from proposal:
Conduct a market study: We will contract with Cooperative Development Services (CDS) to conduct market research on the potential for profitable elderberry product markets, beginning within 30 days of SARE grant award, with the likely contract to run from June 15 - January 31, 2014. Activities will include primary and secondary market research for direct and wholesale sales of fruit and juice, competitive analysis, and market projections for MN producers. The end products will be a written report for distribution to interested elderberry producers; a summary article for publication in the bi-monthly newsletter of the MN Fruit and Vegetable Growers Assn., and a presentation of study results at the January 2014 MFVGA conference.
Conduct grower outreach and education: In July/August 2013 and July/August 2014, we will hold field days at a MN growers’ location. The focus will be on production issues; at least one experienced producer, likely from Missouri, will be invited to discuss and respond to all aspects of production. The Board of Directors of the MN Elderberry Cooperative will make a presentation about the MEC, including its potential role in channeling interest and resources to establish a commercial industry in the Upper Midwest. An update on the market study will also be provided in 2013.
A program on elderberry production and marketing will be held in conjunction with the annual conference and trade show of the MN Fruit and Vegetable Growers Assn. (MFVGA) in St. Cloud MN. We anticipate having one grower and one researcher (likely from the University of Missouri) make presentations on production and cultural issues. In addition, Cooperative Development Services will present the results of the marketing feasibility study, and the board of directors of the MEC will provide an update on the role of the cooperative. We anticipate at least 40 grower participants in attendance.