Our Story

jars of autumn berry jam

We created a company to turn the Autumn Berry from pest to product. 

In 2011, I (Dustin Kelly) realized the berries from the wild autumn olive trees near my home in Central Illinois were tasty. A quick search of the web revealed that the fruit is revered in Asia and the tree was once treasured and promoted in America, but recently it has fallen out of favor because it spreads quickly and can invade land. 

However, the fruit is still greatly appreciated by many people in America who forage for it and eat it fresh from the tree or make things with it like jam, dried fruit leather, and even wine.

Then I learned that the USDA has researched the fruit and found it to be packed with antioxidants, especially lycopene (PDF).

Knowing this, I felt it was a real shame that nobody was using this tree that was so well suited for North America. Instead, it has spread out of control and is causing trouble for natural areas.

A berry with a lot of potential

I was confident that if enough people could get a taste of the autumn berry, it would become a popular fruit, similar to strawberries and blueberries. I felt that with the help of a quality brand and an efficient distribution system it had the potential to be sold in grocery stores like other popular berries. With enough demand, there wouldn't be a problem with having too many trees, and, even better, we would have a new source of non-GMO food that is drought and pest resistant and doesn’t require fertilizer.

Bringing our idea to life

In 2012, I created Autumn Berry Inspired with my wife to make this strategy a reality. We started harvesting berries from our land, set a selling price equal to organic blueberries, and became entrepreneurs. We made our own jam and sold it at the local farmers market. 

Dustin and Chenxi selling autumn berry jam at the farmer's market

The local community loved hearing our story and bought all of our jam! Soon we could afford to pay people to help us harvest. We also hired a graphic designer to help us create our materials, and then a professional jam maker to make our products for us. 

Before long, a local brewery-pub, The Blind Pig, contacted us to buy our autumn berries to make a flavored beer. It was delicious! 

Then a nice downtown restaurant, The Big Grove Tavern, wanted to buy our berries to make marmalade, sorbet, and sauces for their menu. We couldn’t be happier to create these relationships with respected local food makers. 

We see that our company can serve to raise awareness of the autumn berry and the importance of controlling and utilizing other invasive species. We love seeing our new market grow in Central Illinois and look forward to expanding to larger markets like Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis.