Midwest Saskatoon Project
With healthy eating more and more on people’s radar and summer approaching, this is a busy time for the Lutz family. Sisters Kate, BBA ’12, and Sarah, a Northwood University graduate, and their father Richard Lutz, BA ’73, own and operate Midwest Saskatoon Project, a farm in Bear Lake, Mich., that grows these unusual fruits to sell to individuals and restaurants.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself … Saska-what?
The Saskatoon has the appearance of a berry, resembling a blueberry, but is actually a relative of the apple. Saskatoons are part of a class of foods known as superfruits, “They have antioxidant properties that are higher than the Acai berry and are higher in protein, fiber, potassium and iron than most other berry fruits,” says Sarah Lutz. She notes that everyone interprets the sweet taste differently, but says, “They remind me of a cross between a blackberry and an apple.”
Richard Lutz, an avid gardener, began growing Saskatoons in his “hobby garden.” As he educated Sarah on their nutritional benefits and heartiness, (the plants can withstand even a cold Michigan winter) she wondered why this was the first she had heard of the Saskatoon. Then, the family began to notice an opportunity – an opportunity to spread the word about this “antioxidant powerhouse,” help spur Michigan’s economy and provide an entrepreneurial pursuit that they could engage in together. And, the idea for the Midwest Saskatoon Project was born.
While demand is much higher than their small business can keep up with, the Lutzes encourage individuals, who are looking for a hobby, supplemental income, or a new career, to get involved with the Saskatoon berry, just as they have. They are embracing this new market, offering information about the berry on their website and even connecting prospective famers with the means to start growing and selling Saskatoons. The plants flourish in Michigan’s climate; and with their health benefits and unique taste, they are a perfect fit for both the state and a niche market.
“I find deep fulfillment in introducing a new and healthy option to consumers,” says Kate Lutz. The Haworth College of Business graduate uses her education to forecast supply and demand and participate in marketing efforts, but her responsibilities don’t stop there. She notes that her favorite activities are, “potting, planting and weeding Saskatoon plants on the farm!”
To start the business, the Lutzes had to import a large quantity of plants from Canada, where the berries are more common. To avoid the challenges of importing live materials, they now focus on local production. Their farm sells to individuals and local restaurants.
How are people using thesesupercharged, superfruits? They can be added to stuffing, used in pies and even used to make salad dressing. The sky is the limit with this new superfruit!
Recipe: Saskatoon Blue Cheese Dip
8 oz. Cream Cheese
8 oz. Crumbled Blue Cheese
1 cup Saskatoons (fresh or thawed)
1 tsp. black pepper
Sliced green onion and pecans for the top
Mix cheeses, pepper and Saskatoons in the blender until smooth.
Place in serving dish and top with green onions and pecans.
Serve with sliced baguette or crackers.