PIKETON, Ohio – As the health benefits of so-called “superfruits” continue to become more widely known, growers in Ohio can take advantage of increasing consumer demand for these foods by adding them to their farm operations.
Fruits such as elderberry, aronia and goji berries are being called super berries because of their nutrition content and their promise to combat a variety of ailments, said Gary Gao, an Ohio State University Extension specialist and associate professor of small fruit crops at Ohio State University’s South Centers in Piketon.
And as the consumer demand for healthier foods continues to grow, farmers who are able to add small fruit crops to their farm operations may find that berry production is a potentially lucrative option, Gao said.
“With the consumer demand for locally grown foods increasing, particularly for those foods that can offer health benefits, growers can add berry production and generate additional income using land they already have,” he said. “The more popular these berries become, it can help growers diversify their operations by giving them more options.”
Elderberry, aronia and goji berries are among the newer super berries to gain consumer attention.
Goji berries are high in antioxidants and vitamin C. Aronia (also called a chokeberry) is said to have more antioxidants than blueberries. Elderberry contains more phosphorus and potassium than any other temperate fruit crop, and is also rich in vitamin C.
The berries can also be grown successfully in Ohio, Gao said.
“Elderberry is a landscape shrub with berries that people can use for baking or making wine or juices,” he said. “Growers in more states are beginning to add production of these berries.
“Growers in Missouri have planted 130 acres of elderberry and growers in Iowa have planted between 500 to 1,000 acres of aronia. We’re trying to help our nursery growers to propagate these plants because it’s a good opportunity.”
To help berry growers -- new and experienced alike -- learn how to produce elderberry, aronia, goji and other berries, horticulture and viticulture experts from the college will host the Blueberry, Brambles and Winegrape Field Night July 15.
The workshop will also offer insight into other key concerns facing small fruit growers, Gao said. The program is 6-9 p.m. at the OSU South Centers’ Endeavor Center, 1862 Shyville Road, Piketon.
Researchers and educators with OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) will conduct the workshop, including Gao and viticulture outreach specialist Dave Scurlock.
OSU Extension and OARDC are the outreach and research arms, respectively, of the college.
Topics to be discussed include:
- Summer vineyard management practices
- Blackberry productions systems
- Blueberry production techniques
- Identification and management of disease and insects in small fruits and grapes
- Raspberry production systems
- Introduction to elderberry, aronia and goji berry production
Registration for the workshop is $25 and includes the program, handouts, dinner and refreshments. Contact Charissa McGlothin at 740-289-2071, ext. 132, to register or for more information. The deadline to register is July 11.
740-289-2071, ext. 123