The saskatoon berry culprit clarifies

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My name is Jim Ochterski, and I am the Cornell staff person leading the introduction of this berry to US markets, and solely responsible for the US side of this berry naming controversy. 

In 2009, a local farmer approached me and asked for my assistance in cultivating his wild juneberries so he could sell more to local chefs.  I organized some additional farmers and we launched a small project to cultivate our wild juneberries as a farm crop, and at the time unaware of saskatoon production in Canada.  The term “juneberry” has been in use in the Eastern US at least since the early 1800’s, based on the month of ripening.

It turns out, the berry we know here as juneberry and the saskatoon grown in Canada are essentially the same berry.  Our fruit farmers continue to use the term “juneberries” because it is familiar and common.  There may be a supposition that it is a new marketing term intended to override Canadian marketing efforts, but it is just what we have known as a wild juneberry for countless generations.  Indeed, this is the same reason why Canadians use the term “saskatoon”.

The US consumer interest in the berry has surged beyond our wildest expectations.  I am looking to Canadian saskatoon growers to help us meet the demand while we increase production.  In March 2014, I asked the saskatoon growers group in Canada to consider using the term juneberry more conspicuously when selling in the eastern US because it has the important marketing advantage of familiarity.

I am personally very fond of the Canadian way of life, having grown up all my summers in Ontario, and for years a devoted watcher of TV shows like North of 60 and Degrassi High from the CBC.  Spent my recent honeymoon in Canada by choice and am particular to Canadian wines, beers, and clothing for our kids.  I am one of many US citizens who desire a stronger Canadian influence on our culture.

I will continue to use the term saskatoons when I communicate with farmers about this fruit as I have since the beginning of my farm project.  The publications I produced are all available at www.juneberries.org for scrutiny by any Canadian who would like to see for themselves.

 

Jim Ochterski


Cornell Cooperative Extension
Agriculture and Natural Resources Issues Leader

Canandaigua, NY 

Organizations: CBC, Cornell Cooperative

Geographic location: US, Canada, Ontario Canandaigua, NY

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