Amidon native looks to build an industry for charity

A Buffalo berry. A small fruit, grown from a small bush. But to Amidon native Adrian Jacobs, it’s much more.

Adrian Jacobs performs at this year's Buffalo Berry Festival in Bismarck, ND.
Adrian Jacobs performs at this year’s Buffalo Berry Festival in Bismarck, ND.

Posted September 5, 2014

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor |

A Buffalo berry. A small fruit, grown from a small bush. But to Amidon native Adrian Jacobs, it’s much more.

Jacobs is in the process of turning this ill forgotten commodity into an endless supply of charity funding.

The journey started a few years ago. His granddaughter was tragically diagnosed with a lemon-sized brain tumor. After operations and treatment, she was able to make a full recovery, but her father Jeremy, Adrian’s son, wanted a way to give back to a cause, pediatric cancer. But the one caveat for Jeremy was that he wanted to find a way to make sure that the charitable contributions be totally donated directly to someone in need, rather than giving money to a large entity and allowing that entity to disperse it the way they desired.

“They want to be able to give 100% of the donation for that child to go to that child,” Adrian Jacobs said.

Jeremy turned to his father, Adrian, for advice. Adrian has done business consulting for years and his expertise would prove to be beneficial. So Adrian got to work.

In order to develop a business plan that would allow such donations, they did research and decided that they needed to create some sort of product, or innovation and somehow turn that into the main source of income for the charitable contributions.

That’s where the buffalo berry comes into play.

Jacobs had grown up harvesting this small fruit on his home ranch, and his family made products from it, such as syrups and jams. They wanted to take a product that’s unknown, and harvest it.

“The concept was, let’s take a product that’s already going to waste, that nobody does anything with, and that’s the buffalo berry, and let’s harvest it,” Jacobs said.

Some byproducts of the berry include the jams and jellies, but Jacobs said they are continuing to develop new ways of utilizing the small berry.

The next problem they had to overcome was the harvesting efficiency. Picking buffalo berries can be a long and slow process. But Jacobs thinks they have come up with an answer for the predicament.

Jacobs, along with his son Jeremy are in the process of developing a tool that increases the rate of harvest. Jeremy happens to be an engineer with NASA.

“Having a NASA engineer doesn’t hurt when I have a problem,” Jacobs said.

So the big question in the next step is how to turn the berries into bucks.

Jacobs, after doing some more research, decided that forming a co-operative might be the best way to generate revenue for charities. Since the berries have never been commercialized, Jacobs is hoping he can start a movement with this commodity.

“What we are hoping is that by establishing a co-operative, we are actually going to form an industry,” Jacobs said.

The preliminary plan is to invite groups to go out and pick the berries. Freeze them, then send them to Bismarck for processing, and that group will receive a piece of the profit from the products their picked berries create. That profit can then go towards the cause of that specific group. Jacobs is already beginning to recruit groups to pick the berries.

“The idea is that the co-operative pushes the money back, or some of the profits back to those that collect the berries,” Jacobs said.

Initially their interest was pediatric cancer, and along with Bravehearts 4Kids, a charity that Jacobs is involved with, came up with the design and it expanded from there.

However, after looking at the big picture, and desiring to make a co-op, it was decided that they should open up the opportunity for a variety of groups. Whether it’s church groups, 4H groups, or perhaps a city needs a new swing set for their park, they can be involved with the co-op.

“Why not open the festival up to every non-profit out there that’s doing something,” Jacobs said, “and let them participate.”

They plan to kick off every harvesting season with a festival, dubbed ‘Buffalo Berry Festival.’ The festival is going to allow the groups to get together, have some fun, and mark the beginning of the picking season that runs through Thanksgiving. According to Jacobs, this festival isn’t necessarily a time for donating or fundraising, but just a time to create awareness on the health benefits of the berry, and the good that the co-op can do for a plethora of people around the state.

Jacobs has been in contact with the Tourism department with the State of North Dakota to feature it as an attraction.

At this point they are in the process of correctly forming the co-operative, but he isn’t waiting for that process to be finished. Though they are hoping for an official opening for the co-op within the next year, they will still accept berries to be processed, and they will be accepted into the co-op.

“They automatically become a member in the co-op by offering to ship the berries to our gathering place,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs, and his son Jeremy sought out an avenue for donating 100% of the proceeds they collect, by creating this co-op, they will be able to give groups that luxury, while promoting healthy living and generous giving in North Dakota.

“We build it so that it’s owned by the people of North Dakota that participate in the festival,” Jacobs said.

Share this post