Field Testing The Mulberry for Commercial Production in the Midwest

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $7,481.00
Projected End Date: 01/30/2018
Grant Recipient: Solid Ground Farm
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Weston Lombard
Solid Ground Farm

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Fruits: general small fruits


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: agroforestry
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: agritourism, new enterprise development
  • Natural Resources/Environment: afforestation, biodiversity, habitat enhancement, hedgerows, carbon sequestration
  • Production Systems: permaculture
  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, social capital

    Proposal summary:


    Research abounds about the benefits of the mublerry tree and it’s fruit. For instance any book or website will tell you that: Mulberry fruit is delicious, nutritious, easy to harvest, and has little to no pests or diseases. The trees are fast growing, quick to bare fruit, grow in most soil types, and are drought and pollution resistant. They are late to flower and consistently bare copious amounts of fruit with little or no maintenance, irrigation, or attention in general.

    All of this information indicates that mulberry is the perfect candidate for an organic or no spray fruit orchard, yet attempts to find examples of it’s commercial cultivation, produce documents and videos from South America, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Northern Africa, and one man in Oregon. The only supply of mulberries for consumption that I could found was grown in Turkey. And by the way, a 5 oz bag of dehydrated mulberries sells have around the world?

    I believe the problem is that a poor public perception has led us to overlook the mulberry.

    Since its escape from cultivation for a failed silk industry centuries ago, the foreign white mulberry has aggressively spread across the country, earning the mulberry a reputation as a noxious weed. This uninvited guest has proceeded to dump huge amounts of staining berries on sidewalks and driveways across the country. This combined with the mulberry's short shelf life have kept it out of serious considerations for commercial production.

    As a result, the mulberry has not been properly tested, bred, or researched. Potential growers can't find information on varieties for our region, orchard layout, maintenance, or harvesting techniques.


    I plan grow, test, harvest, preserve, propagate, research, and publicize the mulberry and it’s potential for cultivation in the midwest.

    My strategy will be multifaceted:

    1. I will continue planting and testing the named mulberry varieties available at nurseries around the country to see what works in our region.

    2. I will seek out productive wild mulberry trees from around the region, clone them, and plant them on my farm for further testing.

    3. I will create a mulberry orchard demonstrating and testing several different cultivation styles (full grown trees, trees managed as small bushes, and trees trained as a fruiting hedgerow).

    4, I will hire others to harvest and create products from the mulberry fruit such as alocoholic beverages, syrups, jams, and other culinary dishes to share at a mulberry festival.

    5. I will host a mulberry celebration on the farm to promote sustainable agriculture and the mulberry. 6. I will raise and distribute the best mulberry varieties for further testing and enjoyment.

    7. Based on research and my own findings I will publish an informational packet about the mulberry and its commercial potential or lack thereof for our region.

    Basically, I will discover the suitability of the mulberry for organic fruit production in our region, find the best varieties to grow, and engage as many others in the process as I can.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Promote, find, propagate, and grow in a test orchard mulberry trees from around the region to discover which, if any, is suitable for commercial production.
    2. Benefit the environment by planting deep rooted trees that contribute falling leaves and branches to the soil, provide diverse wild life habitat and forage, and ultimately create a more resilient and diverse landscape.
    3. Empower farmers to increase profits by producing high-value mulberries on marginal land not suited for other crops.
    4. Host and organize a mulberry festival to promote social cohesion and bring those of a like mind together to share ideas and experiences.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.