Our innovative plan to scale forced drying equipment in order to meet our crop yield and local demand expands market opportunity for farmers through value added on-farm processing, access to local food and beverage markets, increases production efficiency and product quality, and meanwhile offers a strategy to reducing Spotted Wing Drosophila prevalence in Elderberry.
The U.S. currently imports elderberry and elderflower from Europe. At the same time, Midwestern farmers are adding elderberry to their diversified operations. An appropriate scale of forced drying equipment suited for mid sized elderberry and elderflower producers does not currently exist. There has been little effort to develop this type of on-farm processing equipment in our region.
Food and beverage companies, and retail health food stores, are interested in sourcing dried elderflower (and other herbs) locally instead of from large-scale herb distributors. Currently, local growers cannot supply these markets with an appropriate quantity of dried elderflower because of the inefficiency of small scale equipment.
Additionally, Elderberry is highly susceptible to Spotted Wing Drosophila. By expanding our dried elderflower enterprise through pre-fruiting flower harvest, we can evaluate the success of reducing SWD overwintering habitat on the long term crop quality.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Scale up on-farm forced drying equipment for herbals, specifically elderflower to meet current yield and
- Increase supply of shelf stable, value-added dried elderflower for local and regional food, beverage, and health
- Share findings with other farmers through field days and conference
- Long term: reduce on-farm Spotted Wing Drosophila presence in elderberry crop by harvesting pre-fruiting flower and reducing overwintering habitat for
- Long term: test and expand forced drying equipment ability to include additional specialty crops.