Enhancing the Sustainability of Small Farms in Montana through Postharvest Management of Berry Crops, with Emphasis on Haskaps

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2024: $75,000.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Montana State University
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Roland Ebel
Montana State University
Omar Franco Mora
Autonomous University of the State of Mexico
Claire Luby
Montana State University
Fabian Menalled
Dept. of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences
Dr. Zachariah Miller
Montana State University-Western Ag. Research Center


  • Fruits: apples, berries (blueberries), berries (other), berries (strawberries), cherries, pears
  • Vegetables: carrots, celery, cucurbits, onions, radishes (culinary), turnips


  • Crop Production: postharvest treatment
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, networking, technical assistance
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, urban agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    During a one-year long sabbatical stay at Montana State
    University (MSU), Dr. Omar Franco Mora, an acknowledged
    postharvest management expert, will collaborate with local
    horticultural producers to train farmers, extension agents, MSU
    students, and faculty in sustainable post-harvest management for
    vegetables and fruits. Horticultural producers in Montana, often
    small-scale and organic, have succeeded in selling fresh produce
    directly, capitalizing on a growing demand for local and healthy
    produce. However, the seasonal nature of fresh sales poses a
    significant economic limitation. To maximize farm sustainability
    and profitability, postharvest practices preserving produce
    flavor, nutrition, shelf-life, increasing marketability, and
    decreasing seasonality are crucial. For example, cold-hardy
    berries, like haskaps, hold potential to enhance the
    sustainability of horticultural production in Montana, but the
    window to sell fresh berries is narrow. This collaborative
    research and education project serves to address a knowledge,
    training, and infrastructure gap that currently exists in the
    Western Region regarding effective postharvest management.
    Farmer-led research will assess pre- and postharvest applications
    of polyamines to maintain cell wall firmness, reduce water loss,
    and minimize chilling injury, thus enhancing fresh berry quality
    and shelf life. Study findings will be shared through producer
    meetings and MSU Extension publications, promoting sustainable
    post-harvest practices for Montana's food system. In addition,
    local producers, the research team, and Franco Mora will conduct
    two fruit and vegetable storage field days for 150 attendees and
    share insights through three online videos. Through four guest
    lectures and seminars, MSU faculty, and graduate and
    undergraduate students will benefit from Franco Mora’s expertise.
    Furthermore, the project team will contribute to a statewide
    needs assessment on collective produce storage for small-scale
    farmers. Project outcomes will encompass experiential training of
    at least 150 farmers, experts, and students, as well as online
    and print materials on postharvest practices tailored to the
    needs of local horticultural producers.



    Project objectives from proposal:

    Educational and outreach objectives

    • Train producers, extension agents, researchers, and
      students in effective postharvest management strategies for
      fruits and vegetables, with a focus on berry crops, to improve
      the utilization, quality, and shelf life of locally grown
      ; and
    • Identify strategies to facilitate feasible and sustainable
      postharvest management solutions tailored to the needs of
      small-scale horticultural producers in the Northwestern


    General research objective

    • Increase haskap berry postharvest management to prolong
      shelf-life and keep fruit nutraceutical and sensorial quality
      for fresh consumption and juice extraction.

    Specific research objective

    • Assess the impact of polyamine treatment and harvest
      methods on the quality and shelf-life of haskap berries
    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.