Sustainable Development of Ribes, Aronia – Elderberry as Commerical Crops in the Northeast
Commercialization of Ribes, Aronia, and elderberry is underway in the Northeast. Each crop is at a different stage of development due to the availability of plant material and public familiarity with the crop. Initial feasibility studies that were completed with this project state that black currants is the most promising crop the Hale Group has seen in thirty years. Final feasibility studies and business plans should be available this year, along with results of the health benefits study. The first 30,000 pounds of currants were processed this year and growers have added more than fifty acres of fresh fruit Ribes.
Target 1. Perform research that will help growers, nutritionists, processors, marketers, and consumers understand and compare the potential health benefits of targeted berry crops by characterizing and determining in vivo effects of their phytochemicals. National press coverage through television, radio, newspaper, and popular magazines will disperse the popular version of results, while a minimum of one scientific journal and 20 trade publications will disperse the scientific and applied version of results.
Target 2. A feasibility study, a turnkey business plan (including marketing), and a plan for farmer cooperation will be written for targeted berry crops and adopted by 20 participating farmers during 2002, and an additional 20 farmers will be added annually thereafter for five years.
Target 3. Selected cultural practices, fresh market industry standards, and sample primary processed products for chosen targeted berry crops will be researched, developed and shared when available. A group of basic retail product formulations will also be developed. (The list of practices and standards to be researched and implemented came from participating growers and marketers who are actively producing on a small, commercial trial basis. Samples were requested by primary processors, and retail formulations by small to medium producers.)
Target 1 Potential health benefits of ribes, aronia, elderberry. (New or existing dates follow)
Milestone 1 (Fall 2003) Report phytochemical characterization of targeted berries to extension educators, growers, and processors through a newsletter and meeting.
Milestone 2 (Summer or Fall 2003) Report results of in vivo studies of phytochemical metabolism and their possible impact on animal health to extension educators, growers, and processors.
Milestone 3 (Winter 2004) Publish scientific journal article related to targeted berries and their potential health benefits. Make press releases and conduct interviews for the general public.
Progress Report: The biggest factor slowing the progress of this target is getting a subcontract to do the health benefits work approved by the Children’s Nutrition Center and Cornell. The Cornell office received the grant contracts late from SARE and NYS Ag and Markets, which initially slowed down the process. Then Ron Prior had a hard time getting the proper department to develop the contract. We are down to now finishing the negotiation of the last two areas of concern for the contract. We have been assured that the contract will be signed in February.
In the meantime, Ron has started some of the initial evaluation of the fruit. He has also been working to perfect the procedures to be used for the animal feeding trials while testing other berries using other funding sources. Steven McKay delivered needed Ribes samples to him to be sure they arrived in good condition for the research. Ron and Steven also met to do further planning for the research, and to complete some more literature searches. We acquired Aronia samples from the national germplasm repository in Corvallis, and will be acquiring elderberry samples from Artemis Processors of Massachusetts in February.
Target 2 Develop feasibility studies, turnkey business plan, and a plan for farmer cooperation. (New or existing dates follow.)
Milestone 1 (Fall, 2003) Release completed feasibility study on targeted berries to extension educators, growers, and processors. Present results in a meeting of 100 growers, and recruit 20 as participant growers.
Milestone 2 (Fall, 2003) Release business plan to extension educators, and 20 participant farmers.
Milestone 3 (Spring 2004) Offer grower services to participating growers.
Milestone 4 (Winter 2005) Continue to add participating farmers at a rate of 20 per year.
Receiving our matching funds from New York state for doing the feasibility study and business plans was delayed in coming, which delayed work on the feasibility study. To this point, the Hale Group has finished the pre-feasibility study and is putting the finishing touches on the final feasibility study, and has said that the business plan will be forthcoming in March or April. The target for adoption of the plan will have to be shifted to 2003 when the business plan is completed. (Please see appendices to see copies of work submitted to date.)
Target 3 Develop cultural practices, market standards and sample primary processed products.
(Dates have been adjusted slightly.)
Milestone 1 (Fall, 2003) Make results of the first year’s fungicide trials, and gooseberry industry standards available to extension educators and 20 growers in newsletters and a meeting.
Milestone 2 (Winter 2003) Distribute primary processed products to at least ten retail product manufacturers and basic retail product recipes in a workshop open to 50 small scale food processors. Assist up to four medium to large scale and ten small processors to develop products.
Milestone 3 (Fall 2003) Distribute gooseberry seedlings to five participating growers.
Milestone 4 (Summer 2004) Assist five gooseberry farmers to incorporate new mkt. stds.
Milestone 5 (Fall 2004, 2005) Make annual results of fungicide trials and seedling observations available to extension personnel and 50 growers.
Milestone 6 (Winter 2006) Incorporate new fungicide guidelines into extension ribes recommendations and make preliminary selections of gooseberry seedlings.
The fungicide trials are in process at Geneva. About a third of the plants for the trial were lost this summer and will be replaced this spring. Some initial trials done in Hudson have helped Bill Turcheck to slightly revise the spray protocols for the trial. The planting area was established as described in this original SARE proposal.
Primary processed products including puree, syrup, single strength juice, concentrate, dried, and infused dried black currants have been made at the food venture center using local fruit samples. They have been distributed to four food processors to this point. Availability was announced at the NYS Direct Marketing Conference berry meeting January 29 (and a sample of infused dried berries passed around for tasting), and will be announced in the Small Food Processors’ Association newsletter. A sample of each was demonstrated at Marvin Pritt’s small fruit class at Cornell. Four processors have accepted samples. In all, 34 500 ml plastic bottles of 65 brix concentrate, 11 12 oz. bottles of essence, 22 bags of air dried berries, 15 bags of sugar infused berries, and 2.2 gallons of frozen puree were made.
A problem with bitterness has been uncovered with this year’s 30,000 pound commercial crop, and a new effort needs to be directed at solving the problem. This seemed to be region-wide, and may have to do with recent climatological conditions.
Gooseberry seedlings from over 100 varieties will be grown at Coldwater Pond Nursery in Phelps, New York for distribution during fall of 2003. It is hoped that there will be some chance seedlings that may have better fruit quality or disease resistance. The seeds were collected during the summer, 2003 from promising cultivars. (The same nursery is trying to propagate Aronia from seeds and Nourse nursery is propagating elderberry from tissue culture to make these plants available at a reasonable price.)
New market standard development has begun for dessert gooseberries. About 150 varieties were evaluated in the field at two locations in England. Flavor and Brix observations were noted along with observations on disease. Photos of all fruits were taken.
A binder with a page dedicated to each variety, including pictures, fruit and plant characteristics, and history if known is being compiled. The fruits are being grouped according to similarity so that a standardization of gooseberry types will be accomplished. This will be useful to the trade so that buyers can associate a variety name with a fruit type.
A simple form of this information is being compiled in a brochure form. Gooseberry farmers will be supplied with these brochures to help them with fresh marketing to the wholesale trade.
A cordon training system (for fresh fruit production) in Holland was observed and studied for adoption in the US. This system simplifies pruning, spraying, and harvesting. It is appropriate for gooseberries and red currants. A demonstration was set up in Hudson, NY, and an article was written and distributed to more than five newsletters with regional, national, and international distribution. It was also incorporated into the new Ribes Production Guide, which Steven McKay had a chance to review and contribute other information as a part of SARE activities.
CA storage for Ribes is done routinely, and observed in Holland. It has much promise for use in the US, and could be a major marketing aid for our developing industry. Some initial information was collected on the procedures for CA, and a new grant has been written to do additional research.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
a. Processed over 30,000 pounds of black currant fruit commercially, and working to devalop and bottle a local beverage made from the syrup.
b. Over 50 acres of additional Ribes plantings have gone in during the year. A farm in Massachusetts is planning to plant Aronia, and one in New York, elderberry, both for processing quantities.
c. At least four enterprises are being developed to produce commercial retail black currant beverages.
d. The feasibility studies have found the Ribes industry to be one of the most promising seen many years.
e. A Ribes cookbook has been published with over 800 recipes. It os suitable for selling at farmers’ markets, and other retail sites.
f. A comprehensive production guide for Ribes is at the publishers, soon ready to be released.
g. The International Ribes Association has been strengthened this year, with further plans for 2003. This will be an excellent resource for growers and processors at all levels.
h. A series of list serves exists for the Ribes industry.
i. A new pruning and training system for fresh Ribes production was uncovered while in Europe working on the gooseberry standards project. This system simplifies pruning and results in a higher quality crop.
j. CA storage for gooseberries and currants can result in holding time of up to 8 months. This is a useful marketing tool for the new crop. We have gathered the initial information on the procedures, but would like to improve with additional cooperative research this summer.
k. Clinton Vineyards has increased their production of cassis to 100 cases this year and will double it next year.
l. The Ribes list serves and web sites are resources of Cornell and the International Ribes Association that have been made available for the SARE project for discussion and posting information.