Officials with the Iowa Farm Bureau have announced Sawmill Hollow in Missouri Valley, the country’s first aronia berry farm, is this month’s Iowa Farm Bureau Renew Rural Iowa entrepreneur award winner.
The organic berry operation is a family farm run by Vaughn and Cindy Pittz and their son, Andrew. In 1997, the Pittzes planted 207 aronia berry plants and have since expanded the farm to 26 acres and more than 13,000 plants. The berries, also known as black chokeberries, can be made into a variety of products, including syrup, sauce, powders and wine.
After looking into a number of value-added ideas, ranging from Christmas trees to pumpkin patches, the family found aronia berries offered the best potential.The business is a benefit to Iowa’s ag industry and to the Missouri Valley economy with its annual festival. Sawmill Hollow’s fifth annual North American Aronia Festival is this weekend, Sept. 15-16, featuring children’s activities, wine tasting, recipe contest, farming and gardening workshops and more. (For a full schedule, go to http://sawmillhollow.com/.)
Renew Rural Iowa (RRI) is an Iowa Farm Bureau Federation initiative supporting new and existing businesses through education, mentoring and financial resources. To learn more, visit www.renewruraliowa.com.