Know Your Farmer: Saskatoon Michigan
Meet Steve DuCheney of Saskatoon Michigan Farm! “Saskatoon” Steve grows mostly Saskatoon berries and a few Honeyberries on his farm in Williamsburg, Michigan.
Steve started his farm in 2009 during the economic downturn, when he decided to diversify his income after spending years as a self employed cabinet maker. He had a couple acres of vacant land in his yard, so he decided to put it to use and grow a niche crop. Saskatoons are ideal for the growing conditions in Northwest Michigan because they are able to survive in very cold temperatures. They also aren’t too picky about soil. With the help of an MSU extension agent, Steve decided that these qualities made Saskatoons the perfect crop for him. Saskatoon Michigan started out as a one-acre U-pick farm, but Steve has since added 10 acres of commercial production on some leased land.
What is a saskatoon berry?
So, you may be wondering, what exactly is a “Saskatoon” berry? You have probably heard of Saskatoons without realizing it because they are also sometimes called Serviceberries or Juneberries. Some Saskatoon varieties are native to Michigan and the berries can be found growing in the wild. However, the species that Steve and most commercial growers plant is native to the Western prairie states and Canada and is less seedy than the wild varieties. Saskatoon berries look similar to blueberries, but they are actually more closely related to apples! The Saskatoon Berry Institute describes the berries as having a “sweet, nutty flavor.” In addition to being fun to say and tasting delicious, Saskatoons are healthy too! The berries are high in antioxidants, and have been dubbed a “superfood” by several sources.
Saskatoon berries still have a lot of room for growth and awareness among consumers. Steve notes that this lack of awareness is partly due to the very short growing season of Saskatoons. Depending on the weather, harvest can start and finish within a week or two. Due to this short harvest season and relatively small grower field, there was a lack of availability that led the fruit to be unknown to many. However, some exciting things are happening in the Saskatoon world! As more farmers are growing Saskatoon berries in recent years, there are also more Saskatoons in supply! Frozen Saskatoon berries can be found year-round in many grocery stores. Steve says that one exciting development is that Saskatoon berries are starting to make their way into the craft beverage industry. Visit the Saskatoon Berry Institute, a group formed by local Saskatoon growers to help spread the word about the wonderful berry, for more information on Saskatoon berries.
Now that everyone’s interest has been piqued, you’re in luck, because Saskatoon season is happening right now! Saskatoon Michigan Farm is open for U-Pick at 7924 Sayler Rd Williamsburg, MI. Purchase directly from the farm, or find Saskatoon Michigan’s berries from Michigan Farm to Freezer and Cherry Capital Foods. Don’t fret if you miss fresh Saskatoon season because you can purchase frozen berries year round in local grocery stores like Tom’s and Oleson’s! Visit the Saskatoon Michigan Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SaskatoonMichigan/ for more information and updates from Saskatoon Steve. And, as Steve says, make sure to “Stay Toon’d!”
Julia Linder is the Communications & Events intern for Taste the Local Difference. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org