HARRISVILLE — Cedar Knoll Farm, owned by Andrew and Dorothy Kramer, is participating with research to establish new commercial fruit crops in the north country.
Three high-antioxidant, high-economic value “superfruits,” juneberry, honeyberry and aronia berry, are the focus of research funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program.
According to the program, these fruit crops represent significant income potential from fresh market and value-added sales in New York state. They are northern climate-tolerant and have proven to be consumer-friendly in other areas of the U.S. and globally. The funded on-farm trials of the three fruits are evaluating how well they adapt to and thrive under New York growing conditions.
The Kramers, who have operated the Route 3 farm for 11 years, planted a dozen each of the juneberry and honeyberry plants in 2019 as part of the research for “Establishing New Commercial Fruit Crops for Northern NY” report.
The report, which includes notes on 11 commercial varieties, four ornamental varieties, and nine wild-collected varieties of juneberry; 15 varieties of honeyberry; and four commercial and two ornamental varieties of aronia berry, is available at www.nnyagdev.org under the Research: Horticulture and Local Foods tab.
Mr. Kramer said he is participating in the research program to broaden his horizons.
“I like trying new things — I may add it as a crop down the road,” the farmer said, noting the juneberry is similar to blueberries that he grows. He said the plant is native to Canada where it is called saskatoon. He also grows a variety of vegetables including garlic, corn, squash and tomatoes; herbs and apples.
Since the plant takes a few years to mature, he said this year he probably will have a very small yield.
He added he was thankful to be part of the research offered through Cornell Cooperative extension since the agency has provided him with so much educational material and support.
“We’ve mulched around the plants and been watering,” Mr. Kramer said. “We are giving the best care we can and hopefully will be successful.”
Juneberry is a blueberry-like fruit rich in calcium, fiber, iron, manganese and protein, according to a press release from the agricultural program.
“In 2013, when the NNYADP provided funding to establish a Juneberry nursery of commercially-available and wild-collected varieties at the Willsboro Research Farm, at Willsboro, New York, this historically-significant fruit was considered a New York State endangered species,” the release explains.
“Two of the 24 juneberry varieties planted at the Willsboro Research Farm were fruiting standouts in 2019, with almost triple their fruit yield over 2018. We are eager to see how they perform in 2020 and if they may alternate a heavier fruiting year with a light fruiting year,” said Michael H. Davis, Ph.D., farm manager of the Cornell University Willsboro Research Farm.
Honeyberry, a member of the honeysuckle family, and aronia berry, of the rose family, were added to the fruit project in 2018, with trials planted at the Willsboro farm and on regional farms.
Mr. Kramer said honeyberries are teardrop shaped fruit.
“Honeyberry, referred to by the Japanese as ‘the elixir of longevity,’ has seen a surge in public interest with the development of varieties adapted to a cooler climate, and offers New York growers an exciting new specialty fruit for fresh market sales,” Mr. Davis said.
Davis leads the fruits research in cooperation with noted juneberry researcher and biologist Michael B. Burgess, Ph.D., with SUNY Plattsburgh. Cornell University Horticulture Professor Marvin Pritts, Ph.D., is a collaborator.
Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Legislature and administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Learn more at www.nnyagdev.org.