Little Known Fruits
Non-Traditional Fruit Crops
Sustainability & Buy Local
The Farm Experience
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CARANDALE FARM ~
The Need - Why We Started the Research
Society has poured massive resources into creating our industrialized food
system that is based on cheap, abundant fossil fuels and economic
efficiencies of scale. It continues to benefit from publicly funded
highway infrastructure and production subsidies. This system provides an
abundant supply of cheap food at the market place, but with the passage of
time, hidden costs have taken their toll on society and the environment.
To quote Jules Pretty, Director of the Center for the Environment and
Society at the University of Essex in England, “Food is actually very
expensive. We end up paying for it three times-once at the market, a
second time via taxes for subsides, and a third time to clean up the
environmental and health mess.”
Indeed, obesity and many chronic health problems can be traced back to a
system that compromises nutritional value because of a long supply chain
that often requires over-processing and multitude of chemical additives to
prevent spoilage and maintain palatability. Environmental costs associated
with industrial agriculture and mega-processing facilities must be
addressed. Energy requirements and consumption of non-renewable resources
is not sustainable. Concentration of investment and job opportunities are
impoverishing rural America.
All of these factors have increased the demand for locally and regionally
produces foods, but the lack of diversity and infrastructure severely
limits supply. The basic motivating factor for our on-farm research is to
address these issues. Identifying new fruit crops that can be sustainably
grown in our region, will increase diversity and hopefully help justify
investment in regional processing and distribution in conjunction with
other local foods.
What We Are Doing
From our poster presentation at the National Sustainable
Agriculture, Research and Education (SARE) Conference, August, 2006
Most of the following fruits listed (Unknown, Little Known and Overlooked
Fruits) are being grown without pesticides or artificial fertilizers. Any
exceptions are followed by IPM in parentheses.
Hardy &Artic Kiwi remain in the test area, but have not fruited and
do not exhibit good adaptability. Research indicates they require a deep,
well-drained soil with good fertility. Adaptability will probably be very
Adaptability of Saskatoon appears to be cultivar specific, so we
are expanding our variety trials. Overall potential looks good.
Aronia appears to be very sustainable and is ready for large scale
production and marketing trials.
PawPaw remains in our trial, but appears to lack hardiness and
adaptability in our region.
Cornellian Cherry has some disease issues, but we will continue to
Our Russian Quince varieties adapted very well and produced large
crops of good quality fruit early, but were badly affected by fire blight
(a bacterial disease) in 2007. (IPM)
American Persimmon was planted in 2006, and looked good in 2007.
Ukranian Persimmon (cross between American & Asian Persimmon) was
also planted in 2006, but is struggling to survive.
Gumi looked very good and fruited well, but died back severely in
the winter of 2006-07.
Autum Olive was eliminated from the test plot (concern about
potential invasiveness) and replaced by Buffalo Berry (Sheperdia
argentea) in the spring of 2007.
Sea Buckthorn appears to have outstanding market potential as a
nutrient rich berry that is very adaptable and producer friendly (but has
some harvesting challenges). We are expanding cultivar trials and would
like to start large-scale production and marketing trials.
Honeybery has potential as a very early ripening fruit crop, but
adaptability appears to be cultivar specific and further testing will be
Wolfberry (Goji Berry) is only hardy to about –10 degrees F, so
will die back to the ground in our area nearly every winter unless heavily
Medlar has adapted so far, but winter hardiness may be
questionable. Fruiting has been good, but uses are limited.
Mulberry has potential as a commercial crop, but appears to need
more cultivar selection to be reliably hardy in our area.
Cherry Prinsepia was very adaptable, but it was eliminated from our
test plot in 2007 because the fruit quality was unacceptable.
Meadar Hybrid Bush Cherries have not performed well and have
marginal fruit quality. (IPM)
European Pear variety (Ubileen) was planted as a pollinator for the
Asian Pears. It is a very early pear and the first harvest in 2007
indicated it had good quality, but harvest time will be critical, as it
softens internally very quickly. (IPM)
Shipova has not yet fruited and adaptability is still in question.
Asian Pear (Shinseiki Cultivar) has performed well so far, and
seems to set fruit even without cross-pollination.
Fruiting Rose has set very few hips, so has not been evaluated for
its fruit quality (we are baffled by its lack of fruit production—any
ideas?) Bushes are hardy and vigorous.
Blackberry a number of cultivars are being tested, including some
fall fruiting types that have been disappointing.
American Elderberry is very adaptable, produces large crops, and
has high nutritional value. We think it is ready for large-scale
production and marketing trials for regional marketing.
European Elderberry varieties have not performed well, but we plan
to trial more cultivars.
Magnolia Vine survives but does not thrive in our test plot. It
appears to be sensitive to hot summer temperatures and may not adapt to
our clay-based soils.
European Mountain Ash has adapted well, but fruit is too astringent
(high in tannin content) for most uses.
Ash-Aronia Cross has also adapted
well and its fruit quality is better than the European Mountain Ash, but
more astringent than Aronia.
European Highbush Cranberry was very hardy and disease resistant,
but fruit quality was unacceptable. It was replaced by two named cultivars
of American Highbush Cranberry in the spring of 2007.
Service Tree (Pear form) was planted in 2006 and has not yet
fruited, but it appears to have adapted well with few disease of insect
Fruit crops listed in Table 1b (Ribes Sub-plot) are managed with a high
level IPM program. Pests are scouted for on a regular basis and pesticides
are rarely used. This is a variety trial.
European Black Currants have adapted and fruited well. We would
like to conduct larger scale production and marketing research. Four
cultivars are being evaluated.
American Black Currant (Crandall) was planted in 2006. First harvest in
2007 was impressive and plants showed few insect or disease issues.
Red Currant Family (includes white, pink and red fruited cultivars)
Fruiting and pest issues quite variable; eight cultivars are being
evaluated for commercial potential.
Jostaberry (a Black Currant X Gooseberry cross) planted unspecified
crosses from 2 nursery sources in 2006. Plants look vigorous, but have not
Gooseberries being evaluated have a wide range of fruit quality and
adaptability. Eight cultivars are being evaluated.
Fruit crops listed in Table 1c (Stonefruit sub-plot) are being managed
with a low spray IPM approach. Plum curculio and leaf spot had to be
controlled chemically in 2007. Adaptability and fruit quality are being
American Plum which is native and widely adapted, is being used as
a pollinator species. Since these are not grafted, they exhibit a great
deal of genetic diversity. Though not considered dessert quality, some
individual clones show outstanding processing potential.
European Plum are the traditional prune-type that can be eaten
fresh or dried. Three cultivars are being evaluated.
Hybrid Plum (for Northern production) is typically a cross between
American plum for winter hardiness and Asian plum for size and dessert
quality. Eleven cultivars are being evaluated, including two from Dr.
Brian Smith’s breeding program at UW River Falls.
Sweet Cherry are marginal in our environment, but we are looking at
three of the hardiest and most crack resistant cultivars. Fruit bud
hardiness due to short chilling requirements has been the most limiting
factor so far.
Tart Cherry Though we know that most tart cherry varieties grow
well in our environment, we are testing a little known variety that is
supposed to have dark flesh.
Sweet-Tart Cherry Crosses exhibit some characteristics of both
parents. We are evaluating two crosses that appear to have good dessert
quality fruit and good adaptability. Yields have been somewhat
disappointing so far.
Apricot-Plum Cross that we have has not fruited and will be
Apricot one cultivar was planted in 2005, but has not fruited
Ongoing and Future Research Objectives
We will continue to screen, evaluate, and
document information about all of the fruit types in our test plot. We
will add new types and new cultivars that meet our test criteria. Fruit
types that do not meet the most basic sustainability tests for our region
will be eliminated, but information that could be useful for other
regional marketing areas will be documented and recorded.
Potential niche items will be identified, but focus will be on fruit that
appear to have significant potential to diversity and assist in justifying
a regional marketing approach. The items that have exceptional nutritional
value and environmental adaptability (grower friendly) traits will be
selected for commercial scale production, product development and
Significant increases in the availability of locally produced food will
require infrastructure for processing and distribution. To be competitive,
a regional food system will require a diverse and consistent supply of
agricultural product. New and unusual fruit crops would add diversity and
volume that could provide the critical mass required.
Stakes are simply too high to leave the outcome to chance. We are
proposing a research framework within which to establish production
protocols, form a grower network, examine risk management, and ramp-up
production of selected fruit crops within three years. A network of small
diverse processors would conduct product development and test marketing to
support a regional marketing initiative within five years.
Groundwork has already been done. At least four fruit crops have been
identified that warrant commercial consideration for our region. Aronia,
Sea Berry, American Elderberry and European Black Currant, stand out as
sustainable additions that could provide the tipping point for investment
in regional processing and distribution infrastructure. Additional
screening at our test site will probably identify other fruit crops
including, but not limited to; the Red Currant family, Saskatoon,
Gooseberry, and adapted Plum varieties.
Putting plants in the ground based on anecdotal information from other
countries and other regions will not provide the Best Management Practices
(BMP) information required to optimize yields and minimize risk and
production costs. To determine profitability, potential growers need to
know farm-gate pricing, as well as production cost. This will require
product development, marketing and processing research.
A series of BMP will have to be compared to determine their affect on net
profitability. This will require field trials to compare labor and capital
intensive approaches that result in earlier and higher yields to low input
approaches that cost less to implement, but delay the income stream.
Research results will help growers determine what BMP will achieve Maximum
Return on Investment (MRI) for their operation. This will be done by
assigning values specifically applicable to their operation to a series of
variables that determine profitability. These include, but are not limited
to such factors as, capital investment needs, cost of labor, cost of
money, transportation, yield projections, amortization factors, and
Using background information from previous
research and literature review, the following steps are proposed:
Compare production techniques to determine
best management practices tailored to the local region. This would
include, but not be limited to: propagation, planting, spacing,
maintenance, harvesting and handling techniques.
form a network of growers who would agree (probably with cost sharing
incentives) to plant an (significant) acreage of one or more of the test
crops using similar production techniques to compare Meso-climatic
differences, such as soil type, sun exposure, slope and drainage. (A
secondary goal is to have enough production in three years for serious
product development and test marketing.)
Assemble a product development team of small processors. Research their
capabilities and network with them to design a product development plan.
Provide small amounts of fruit from the existing test plot and other
sources (if available) to establish processing protocol and conduct
sampling seminars with trade groups.
Work with the
processor network to design a marketing plan that can be implemented
through existing channels and explore cooperative efforts that might serve
as a nucleus for regional marketing. Conduct accelerated marketing tests
and explore labeling and branding options to capture identity and added
value as locally produced and processed products.
Emphasis from production research to product development and marketing
will be phased in between years three and five. After year three, best
management practices to maximize yield, reduce costs and minimize risk
should be fairly well established. Marketing price potential should be
emerging to the point where original grower network members and new
growers, will be willing to increase acreage without cost sharing
By the end of five years, production and
marketing should be far enough advanced to attract investment. This
five-year research initiative could provide the tipping point for a
regional approach that would accommodate many locally produced foods and
significantly increase availability. This is an ambitious proposal that
will require consumer support and outside funding to help recruit
producers and small processors. We are seeking public grants and other
funding sources to share start-up cost. If you have any suggestions or
can help us get funding, please email us at
If you have any questions, please call our
24-hour Hotline at (608) 835-3979 or call (608) 835-5871 during business