Next Steps for Emerging Crops Breakout Group

Emerging Crops – Aronia, Hops, and other Fruits & Nuts

The feeling that materialized from the emerging crops group was that the sector is poised for noticeable growth, due to surging recognition of perennial crops’ environmental and health benefits.  While demand has yet to develop following the increase in interest in these crops, growers need simultaneously to prepare for the growth and to actively encourage it.  Product development, consumer education, and production efficiency are all areas needing attention.

Next steps:

  • How do we channel the passion and commitment of pioneering growers to work together towards a series of common crop-specific production and marketing goals?  What should those goals be?
  • How do we capitalize on growing interest to expand markets for value added products?

We would like to encourage your participation in continuing conversations. Please step forward by posting a comment below or by emailing us.  If you have suggestions on how we can proceed please don’t hesitate to share them.

8 thoughts on “Next Steps for Emerging Crops Breakout Group

  1. Joe Skulan

    I’m curious about the blackberry photograph heading this section. Is this being considered as a farmed crop? Given that there are thousands of acres of wild blackberries already growing, devoting cropland to them strikes me as wasteful. The same with elderflower and elderberry.

    1. Mark

      Again, good catch. The project assistant (me) realizes the error. I’ll look for an alternative photo. In the meantime, visually you’re stuck with hops and aronia. Thanks!

  2. James Altwies

    As stated before, the direction of this group must be very clear; are we pioneering an industry or filling an existing need? In some cases it is both. In the case of hops, we have a large market aware of quality and willing to pay for it. But the infrastructure for growing and processing is intensive and costly.

    I would ask: Where is the market locally for 100 acres of hazelnuts or aronia? In these cases we not only have to develop production systems, but also build a market. I advise caution and review when deciding which path is most prudent.

    1. Joe Skulan

      This brings up another advantage of wild crops: no new land is being sacrificed to produce them. As with emerging crops, demand exceeds supply in some cases (many mushrooms) while in other cases markets would need to me built (elderflower and elderberry, wild grapes), and perhaps new products developed. But less investment would be lost by the failure of these efforts for wild food than for cultivated crops.

  3. Erin Schneider

    I appreciate the comments, interests, and questions posted by those interested and/or already growing emerging crops such as aronia, elderberry, hazelnuts, hops, etc…

    I am interested in being part of this task force or similar group that is interested in working on collaborative design for product development and test marketing of emerging fruit crops in the Driftless Region.

    We are currently working to develop appropriate outreach materials and provide educational opportunities for grower to collaborate for producing aronia, russian quince, european black currant, white and red currant, saskatoon, seaberry and american elderberry. While all of these fruits are nutrient rich, can be grown sustainably, we think that of these 8 crops aronia and black currant have the most potential for bioregional markets and sustainable production. While we just installed our 1 acre orchard using an agroforestry approach in its design, as fruit becomes available , we will continue to research, and seek others to collaborate with on product development and test marketing of these fruits. We’re excited to learn of the Driftless Region Initiative and explore the potential with these fruits.

    We just hosted 32 growers/land managers during our agroforestry and sustainable fruit production field day and there existed much interest, momentum and expertise around sustainable production/permaculture practices as well as interest in product development. Carandale Farm is also pioneering efforts with Aronia production in Wisconsin and they will be hosting an Aronia field day later in August for those interested in their work.

    I look forward to continuing the conversation during the next Driftless Gathering at the Kickapoo County Fair.

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