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New ag product focus of upcoming workshop

With the potential for new agriculture products in the Grand Forks valley being a hot topic for economic development recently, a workshop on an up and coming berry called haskap, will give farmers, or even backyard gardeners, insight into this new crop.
 
Championed by the agriculture committee working on the economic development plan for the city, the idea for encouraging haskap berries came from research done by committee members Bob Kendal and Gary Smith.
 
“There’s an opportunity to jump the market for something new, something innovative, something that’s never been done in this area before on any kind of scale,” explained Smith. “It’s a way to stand out, possibly, as a community and region if it happens to spread.”
 
Curtis Braaten, president of Haskap Central Sales Ltd. out of Saskatchewan, will be doing the workshop for any interested gardeners.
 
Braaten’s passion for fruit production started to blossom as a young boy on his parent’s farm. He began experimenting with blue honeysuckle, sea buckthorn, apples, cherries and chokecherries and then began several agro-forestry initiatives and demonstration projects with hybrid poplar and siberian larch, some alone, some with others.
 
Out of all of this came many hours spent over the last decade volunteering at the University of Saskatchewan within their fruit development program. The knowledge and relationships gained during this time gave him the confidence to enter the fruit industry.
 
In 2007 he, along with a few close associates started Haskap Central Sales Ltd. (licensed haskap propagation and sales) and then Northern Light Orchards Ltd. (haskap orchard) to grow and sell haskap plants and fruit.
 
Why grow haskap?
 
Good varieties of haskap have a fresh raspberry/blueberry flavour with a special zing common only to haskap. The plant has few pests and is the first fruit crop to ripen each season, being earlier than strawberries by a few weeks.
 
The plant is well behaved: it doesn’t sucker, tolerates low temperatures, has no thorns, needs little pruning in early years and likes to fruit when very young.
 
Commercial potential:
 
The main market for the berries is in Japan with the value of a kilogram ranging between $7 to 10 depending on the grade of the berry. Japanese evaluators have reviewed the cultivars available in Saskatchewan and approved the varieties being grown.
 
The berries are considered a delicacy on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, where they are consumed as fresh fruit, or in baked goods, wine, candies and ice cream.
 
Too many names for such a new crop!
 
Common names for Lonicera caerulea include: Haskap: a ancient Japanese name of the Anui people (also spelled phonetically as Haskappu, Hascap, Hascup); Blue Honeysuckle: descriptive translation from Russian Honeyberry coined by Jim Gilbert of ‘One Green Earth Nursery’, Oregon; Sweet Berry Honeysuckle an old common name from the 1940s; Swamp fly honeysuckle: a common name coined by botanists who found it growing in swampy areas. Not a recommended name for marketing purposes!
 
Where and when:

On Saturday, Oct. 15 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, at the City Park Seniors Centre, Curtis Braaten, from Haskap Central Sales in Henribourg, Saskatchewan, will be speaking on his experience in growing Haskap. His association with Dr. Bob Bors from the University of Saskatoon, a leading developer of production cultivars, will afford all those interested in the opportunity of visioning a ground-level opportunity for Grand Forks and Area.