(Above) Aronia berries have high levels of antioxidents and polyphenols, properties that help reduce the risk for many diseases. They are often called “superfruit.”
Nestled on a hill next to conservation ground west of Fertile lies Berry Hill Orchard LLC. The orchard was started four years ago by Ventura native Tonya DeVries-Morse and her husband, Tom, after moving back to the area to be closer to family. Tonya’s late father, then 80, and the couple’s sons assisted them in planting thousands of Aronia berry bushes by hand and installing drip irrigation.
Tonya grew up in Ventura, her mom a beautician, avid gardener and cook, her dad from a farming background who worked as an air traffic controller; both of whom encouraged outdoor activities and gardening. As a child, she loved visiting her grandparents’ farm and dreamed of living in the country someday. As a youth, Tom’s family always had huge gardens. He often assisted local farmers on their farms, enjoyed the outdoors, and loved the country life.
After searching for years for their ideal acreage spot, they found one near Fertile. They wanted to continue their tradition of gardening, but also make a difference by growing and offering to the public a natural, chemical-free crop that would contribute to good health.
“Everyone knows someone who has had cancer, heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes. Those health issues touched both sides of our family. After research, we chose to raise Aronia berries because studies have shown them to be such a healthy fruit,” the couple explained.
Studies have shown that Aronia berries (Aronia melanocarpa) have high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols, properties that help reduce risk for many diseases. Aronia berries are often called a “superfruit,” as they contain more antioxidants than many other fruits, including blueberries, elderberries, cranberries, grapes, cherries, apples, and oranges. Scientific studies published by the National Institutes of Health have shown Aronia berries to be beneficial to health. Many people consume Aronia berries as part of their healthy eating plan. They are low in calories but high in nutrients. The couple encourages folks to try Aronia berries, read the scientific studies and decide for themselves any potential health benefits.
Aronia berries are not new to the United States. The shrub is native to North America. The berries were consumed by Indigenous people as a food source and also used in tea for the treatment of colds. Aronia berries have been grown in Europe for decades, with