Sustainable Development of Ribes, Aronia – Elderberry as Commerical Crops in the Northeast
The development of the Ribes industry is progressing at a pace faster than originally planned, while the aronia and elderberry industries are a bit slower to take hold. Availability of plant material has been a limiting factor for all crops since widespread publicity in the popular press has spurred plantings and interest in producing value-added products. The impact of the article in the NY Times last fall is still being felt as inquiries are still being received where the article is referenced. Fresh markets for Ribes including gooseberries, red currants, and black currants were expanded this year, and the demand for gooseberries far exceeds production. One wholesaler in NY has expressed interest in CA stored red currants, and another wholesaler in Boston is meeting with growers in February, 2005 to plan purchase of berries and their distribution. The health benefits study had its first phase completed and a national press release went out in November showing black currants and elderberry to be high in antioxidant capacity, with aronia even higher. (These purple berries were shown to be among the fruits and vegetables with the highest antioxidant capacity.) Commercial production of black currants for processing continues to expand while two commercial products, a yogurt, and a beverage are becoming widely distributed in the Northeast. An aronia beverage is now inder development by a group in New York City. Fungus control in black currant has been achieved with a handful of commonly used and new-generation fungicides.
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 2004) Report phytochemical characterization of targeted berries to extension educators, growers, and processors through a newsletter and meeting.
Milestone 2 (Spring 2005) 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 2005) 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 first phase of the research (biochemical composition of ribes, aronia, and elderberry) has been completed and published in a scientific journal. One popular news release has been made which will be followed by another in January, 2005. The second and final article for journal publication (absorbtion of antioxidant biochemicals by the digestive system) will be published in Spring, 2005.
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.
Progress Report: This target’s milestones 1&2 were completed in 2003. A company is now offering grower services commercially for Ribes, including planning plantings, providing plants, planting, seasonal care, and harvesting and marketing. At least 20 new farmers, small to larger scale are planting currants annually.
Target 3 Develop cultural practices, market standards and sample primary processed products.
(Dates have been adjusted.)
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 (N/A) Distribute gooseberry seedlings to five participating growers.
Milestone 4 (Summer 2005) Assist five gooseberry farmers to incorporate new mkt. stds.
Milestone 5 (Summer 2003, Summer 2004, Spring 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.
Milestone 7 (Summer 2003, summer 2004) Evaluate cordon training for Ribes plants in Europe, and develop articles for farmers in the US explaining how to adapt the system to US growing conditions.
Milestone 8 (Spring 2005) Evaluate CA storage techniques for red currants and gooseberries in Holland and share the technology with Northeast US farmers as a way to extend the red currant and gooseberry seasons.
MS 1 & 5. The planting area was established as described in this original SARE proposal and the first report was given to a group of berry farmers in summer of 2003. A more complete report was given at a summer field day in 2004, and over 50 farmers were in attendance. The results have been published in the NYS Berry newsletter, and are being distributed in the northeast as requested..
MS 2. 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, 2003 (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. Au Currant, Water Buffalo Yogurt, Blue Roof, Connecticut Currant, Micosta, Hudson Valley Hometown Foods, Love Apple Farm, and De Palma Farm were among the businesses to receive product
MS 3. Gooseberry seedlings from over 100 varieties were to be grown at Coldwater Pond Nursery in Phelps, New York for distribution during fall of 2003. The seeds from over 200 varieties of gooseberries were separated and dried, but the nursery decided they did not wish to grow the seedlings. They have been given to Au Currant and are in storage in their freezer waiting for the opportunity to be planted (in 2005 or 2006). Hartman Nursery has made the elderberry varieties imported through this project available to the public.
MS 4. New market standard development has begun for dessert gooseberries. About 150 varieties have been evaluated in the field for three years at two locations in England. Flavor and Brix observations were noted along with observations on disease. Photos of all fruits were taken and a publication will be made in Spring, 2005. 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.
MS 6. In progress.
MS 7. A cordon training system (for fresh fruit production) in Holland was observed and studied for adoption in the US for two years. This system simplifies pruning, spraying, and harvesting. It is appropriate for gooseberries and red currants. A demonstration was set up in Hudson, NY, and two articles were 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.
MS 8. 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. Detailed information about CA storage of red currants has been collected, and a research project was completed on gooseberries.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
a. Processed over 60,000 pounds of black currant fruit commercially, and working to develop and bottle a local beverage made from the syrup.
b. Over 40 acres of additional Ribes plantings have been planted during the year. A farm in Massachusetts is still 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 is suitable for selling at farmers’ markets, and other retail sites.
f. A comprehensive production guide for Ribes has been published and will be released by Haworth Press this spring, 2005.
g. The International Ribes Association will become active again in 2005. 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. It has been adopted by at least 5 farms in the NE.
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 continues to increase their production of cassis, and two additional producers have begun production in 2004.
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.
M. Ribes crops have been legalized in NY.
N. A commercial nursery is now offering the European elderberry varieties imported under this project.
O. The first health benefits article was published in the American Chemical Society Journal, and released to the national press.
P. Significant quantities of black currant concentrate have been imported into the US to “jump start” the processed black currant industry and prove demand.
Q. A company in New York City is working on developing an Aronia drink, and using the health benefits study in their marketing.