Developing Commercial Elderberry Production in Minnesota
• Over the course of the year Minnesota Elderberry Cooperative Steering Committee held several meetings in person and through email. In these meetings we worked with Cooperative Development Services staff on the market and feasibility of production study, discussed grower education and outreach as well as membership structure and benefits.
• We conducted an online Growers Survey. (Link on: http://minnesota-elderberry.coop/cultivation/).
• We completed the Market Study as part of a larger Feasibility Study delivered by Cooperative Development Services in August of 2013 (and presented at the MFVGA Conference January 16, 2014).
• On April 13, 2013, we conducted a daylong growers’ workshop and field tour.
• June 10-14 we participated in the First International Symposium on Elderberry hosted by the University of Missouri at Columbia.
• August 24, 2013 we hosted a Berry Day Workshop at Natura Farms from 8 am – 5 pm that included educational presentations, Q&A as well as in-field demonstrations and tour.
The key points of the Market Study generally confirmed the harvest and processing methodology practiced in Missouri as financially feasible for Minnesota.
• 95% of elderberry production is focused on 4-5 European nations yielding over 100,000 tons a year.
• Less than 1000 tons are estimated for the USA, most of which goes to wineries.
• Short-run opportunities include sales to River Hills Harvest for bottled juice; sale of fresh and/or frozen berries to local wineries; on farm and local sale of de-stemmed frozen and possible fresh berries and flowers to consumers as home production hobbyists.
• Long-run opportunities exist for processing elderflower and elderberry harvests as ingredients for the functional beverage, alcoholic beverage and natural colorant categories both domestically and for export.
WORK PLAN FOR 2014
• We brought Patrick Byers from the University of Missouri Agricultural Extension service to speak at the MFVGA Conference January 16-17, 2014. He summarized his over 15 years of working with elderberry in Missouri and suggested areas for particular attention in studying elderberry commercial production for the more northern zones typifying Minnesota and Wisconsin.
• We presented the Market Study findings within the context overview of the broad Minnesota Elderberry Cooperative (MEC) Feasibility Study conclusions.
• MEC has started to recruit members.
• We will host a free commercial grower – home hobby grower information session May 31, 2014 at Natura Farms including presentations and a field tour. This workshop targets newly interested potential elderberry growers.
• We will participate in the annual Missouri Growers / University of Missouri hosted conference and workshop June 12 & 13 in Jefferson City, MO.
• We will hold a Minnesota Elderberry Festival, Friday – Saturday, August 22-23, 2014, 8:00am – 5:00pm at Natura Farms, LLC / Berry Communications 19060 Manning Trail N., Marine on St. Croix, MN 55047
• The Two-Day Elderberry Festival will include hands-on, in-field harvesting and processing training as well as presentations covering practical solution options to problems commonly faced when commercially growing elderberry.
OUTREACH The activities and plans for sharing are included above. Here I will provide approximate numbers of participants for the grower / information sharing meetings, workshops and conferences mentioned above that we sponsored or co-hosted:
• April 13, 2013 Growers Workshop and Field Tour: 36 participants
• August 24, 2013 Berry Day Workshop: 47 participants
Our main conclusion from the active attendance, questions asked and level of interest was that we needed to plan for a two-day workshop in 2014 and to include a number of other professionals who have been working with berry growers to solve typical problems faced in commercial production. We will hold a free, informal workshop at Natura Farm on May 31, 2014 to connect with potential and new growers.
Farmers and other potential growers in Wisconsin and Iowa have expressed interest in the concept of an elderberry growers’ cooperative in their states. MEC is planning some informational meetings with these groups but no dates have been set yet.
MEC will report on its progress during the Missouri Elderberry School & Grower Gathering June 12-13, 2014 at Carver Center in Jefferson City, MO.