Karley Eaton listens as Angie White displays an ORAC chart comparing Aronia berries to other "super-fruits". Angie and her husband, Richard, grow Aronia berries on their land outside of New Point.

The South Agriculture Department, in conjunction with Family and Consumer Science classes, welcomed guest speaker, Angie White on Friday October 13th. Angie and her husband, Richard White, live outside of New Point where they grow Aronia berries. Known for their health benefits and high antioxidants, the Aronia berry is not as famed as the other "super fruits" such as elderberries, cranberries, and pomegranates. Nonetheless, when farmers in  Iowa were searching for a hardy perennial that could grow in the less-than-ideal landscape of the loess hills, Aronia berries made the top of their list.  

White and her husband began planting the 900 berry shrubs in 2010 on one acre of land using the cultivar Autumn Magic. This ornamental variety displays smaller berries and reaches a mature height of around four feet. White discussed the continuous learning that occurred as she realized that there were far better alternatives for Aronia berry cultivars. They have now began planting a new variety, Galicjanka.

Angie presented the process of planting and harvesting the berries which usually occurs in August and September. Last year her husband, Richard, harvested all of the nearly 20 gallons produced from their plants by hand. Larger scale operations typically harvest by use of machines that shake the berry from the shrub. Commonly referred to as the black chokeberry, Aronia berries can grow to nearly six feet tall (larger varieties) and can require nearly 10ft spacing between plants. 

As the presentation continued, students were able to try fresh berries, berry cookies, Aronia concentrate diluted with water, and Aronia jelly that was made by Angie. the small berries carry a bitter taste but when baked or added to other items it assumes the flavor of the other ingredients. 

There is much research confirming the health benefits of the Aronia berry. When analyzing the oxygen radical absorbance capacity of non-processed plants (raw) the Aronia berry scores higher than any other including pomegranates, Acai berries, and Goji berries.