Peninsula farmer sees bright future for haskap berry

August 31, 2012 

Ripe haskap berries can be as big as grapes.

ALASKA BERRIES PHOTO VIA THE REDOUBT REPORTER

Wild blueberries may thrive in the Alaska, but domestic varieties do poorly on Southcentral farms. It has to do with the cool climate and the pH levels of the soil. But Brian Olson, who farms near Soldotna, has his sights set on doing business in another berry: the haskap from Japan.

From The Redoubt Reporter:

Olson can rattle off a list of his progeny's admirable qualities that would make any parent proud: Hardy, resilient, easygoing, productive and exceptionally healthy with ample prospects for an impressive future.

Then the list takes a turn for the less typical, clearly not referencing offspring of the human variety: fast-growing, thorn-free, easily pickable, delicious and having the potential to revolutionize the agricultural industry in Alaska.

That's a big reputation for the little-heard-of berry Olson and his wife, Laurie, have been cultivating at their farm, Alaska Berries, on West Poppy Lane off Kalifornsky Beach Road. But from the six years Olson has been researching, propagating and growing the berry, Olson is absolutely certain every one of those qualities, and then some, are true.

"The experimental phase was 2008 and 2009," Olson said. "By 2010 we knew we had an Alaska-hardy, relatively disease-free and insect-free plant that was doing very well for us. And the flavor of the fruit was phenomenal. So we knew that we were on to something, that this is going to eventually surpass the blueberry in Alaska as far as a commercial crop goes. It is a super berry."

The Olsons are already selling haskap jam -- first in the U.S. to do so -- are working on a winery and hope to eventually sell starter plants to Alaska gardeners.

Read more at The Redoubt Reporter: Berry bright future - Soldotna-area farmer pioneers haskap plants in Alaska

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