«Previous    Next»
A New Way To Harvest Elderberries
After 20 years of harvesting elderberries, Mike Breckel realized there had to be a better way to separate the berries from the stems. He estimates his “destemmer” lets him do from 50 to 100 times as many berries as any other method he has tried. With around 900 elderberry bushes, it’s a tool he needed.
“If you just want the juice, you can simply crush them, but if you want the berries, it’s time consuming,” says Breckel. “I tried rubbing clusters of berries across hardware cloth to separate the stem from the berries. That was my ‘aha’ moment,” he says.
Breckel needed a mechanical way to replicate his rubbing action. What he came up with was a section of flighting inside a hardware cloth drum. The entire unit is about 4 ft. long and around 17 in. wide.
“The challenge was to get the flighting less rigid so it wouldn’t crush the berries,” says Breckel. “It had to push them in a soft brushing way. I had to get the right bend in the flighting. The first one I made was from salvaged stuff I had in the basement.”
Once he had a prototype, his son-in-law and a friend who are engineers went to work on the project. They made a working model with food-grade materials. It has been powered by hand crank and even by bike pedal.
This fall, Breckel mounted it on a small wagon and took it to the field to destem berries as they came off the bushes. The mobile version is powered by a small DC electric motor that runs off the tractor’s battery.
“I can do 75 to 100 lbs. an hour when it’s set up stationary feeding it clusters of fruit,” says Breckel.
While destemming the berries in the field was not as fast, it left the stems behind, and only the plump berries were carried home. As Breckel drove down the 10-ft. high row, a picker to each side clipped clusters and dropped them in the feed hopper at the front end. Stems were expelled out the other end, and berries dropped through the drum into flats underneath.
Breckel has high hopes for the destemmer, which is practically silent. He hopes it encourages small farmers to begin growing the fruit. He has been selecting cultivars for the past 20 years. He estimates having around 40 to 50 different lines of elderberries in his 1-acre orchard.
“I have some that are very resilient to shattering and much more determinant than wild varieties found on roadsides,” says Breckel.
With the destemmer, Breckel has eliminated one of the major bottlenecks in production. Picking them by hand is another, but that is one reason he believes they can work with small farms and plots like his.
“I am very enthusiastic about it,” he says. “I have worked out an arrangement with an area business to manufacture the destemmer.”
Peter Berquist of Oppen Works will build them. Breckel expects that both he and Berquist will distribute them.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Ocooch Mountain Elderberries, E6775 Hanson Lane, Westby, Wis. 54667 (ph 608 634-3840).

  Click here to download page story appeared in.

  Click here to read entire issue

To read the rest of this story, download this issue below or click here to register with your account number.
Order the Issue Containing This Story
2021 - Volume #45, Issue #1