When Sheila and Alfred Neiber decided to grow aronia berries, they went all in.
It wasn’t one plant.
It wasn’t even 20 plants the Neibers and their son Jason first planted when deciding to grow these super berries. In 2015 the Neibers planted 4,000 aronia berry trees just outside Lidgerwood city limits in what formerly was a junkyard.
Aronia berries can grow in virtually all soils. They seem to especially like the sandy soil in rural Lidgerwood, said Alfred Neiber.
They planted aronia berries, what is determined to be the new super berry, for their overall health benefits, Sheila Neiber said. Studies show the aronia berry is useful for weight control, prevention and management of diabetes and to battle cancer.
It takes three years before a cash crop can be harvested, so the Neibers received their first crop last year. About 40 women from a nearby Hutterite colony picked 5,000 pounds of aronia berries then. The Neibers then cleaned, de-stemmed, bagged and froze them in small 5-pound batches. This year they hired a professional crew that brought a small tractor and picked 15,000 pounds. The harvest amount is expected to grow every year as the plants mature. One tree can produce up to 20 pounds of berries, Sheila Neiber said.
Largely doing the marketing herself, even delivering frozen bags of aronia berries to customers, the Neibers opted to send this year’s crop to Aronia Growers LLC out of Wisconsin, Sheila Neiber said.
“I don’t like selling 5 pounds at a time. Selling is going nicely, but what do you do with six freezers full of frozen berries?” she asked.
The Neibers virtually are growing organic since they do not apply herbicides or insecticides on their aronia berries, although Sheila Neiber said they are not organically certified.
The trees also do not require a lot of care. There were weeds, so she initially marked the rows with flags so the weed badger wouldn’t chew up their new trees. Whatever isn’t caught by the disc, Sheila Neiber said she picks by hand.
It’s kind of fun getting back to nature while tending her plants, she said. “You sing out there and do a few Hail Mary prayers. I hope there aren’t any snakes, so I sing really loud,” Sheila Neiber said, laughing.