Ground Cherries: Improving Harvesting Efficiency and Defining Marketing Measures

Project Overview

FNE22-016
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2022: $5,557.00
Projected End Date: 03/01/2023
Grant Recipient: Serenity Grove Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Jenni Hoover
Serenity Grove Farm

Commodities

  • Fruits: other

Practices

  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, food product quality/safety

    Proposal summary:

    Ground cherries are a unique, tasty and nutritious crop in the nightshade family with husk protecting the prized golden fruit. Ground cherries grow low to the ground and drop their fruit when ripe and ready for harvest. This makes the harvesting of ground cherries labor intensive and ergonomically poor. Previously, I have observed ground cherries dropping and rolling till they are on level ground or hit an obstacle. In this project we will evaluate using an inverted ‘V” bed design to harness the power of gravity and have ground cherries roll to the aisle making for easy harvest. Three heights: 12, 8 and 4 inches with black plastic will be compared in triplicate, plus a traditional raised bed with no black plastic as a control. Weights and time will be recorded per each harvest per bed. We will be using the technique of linear mixed effects modeling which will estimate the contribution of the treatment conditions to the profitability statistic. Additionally, there is very little yield conversions available for farmers to market in sizes desired for baking pies, jellies, etc that call for an unhusked volume. I will address this during peak production in triplicate. The ultimate goal of the project to reduce harvest labor cost to increase profitability for small farms to grow the ground cherries.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to increase profitability of growing ground cherries for small scale farmers. Specifically:

    • Determine if an inverted "V" bed decreases labor cost during harvest, and what size is optimum.
    • Provide farmers with the yield conversions needed for consumers and direct marking buyers like bakers interested in producing value-added pies and jellies

    By detailed record keeping, the weekly production data of each condition overlaid with weather data will help to determine yields, labor requirements and most productive growth condition to formulate crop budgets. Ultimately, the goal is to have a high yielding, profitable crop for small farms.

    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.