Man makes business out of berries

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — One Central Illinois man found foreign berries right in his back yard.

“Autumn Olives are really a gift from nature.”

And it’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Dustin Kelly has made a business out of harvesting autumn berries from the invasive plant they come from – autumn olive trees.  

“I started to work with them. And then I found out they’re edible. Once we found out they were edible, I started to make some jams and share them with my friends.”

And that turned into Kelly starting his own business. It began with jam, jelly, and fruit leather. Then, evolved into wine, beer, and ice cream. Kelly says with this fruit – the limits do not exist.

“I found that a new food and a new flavor are a great thing to spark new combinations, new collaborations. So that’s why we think the possibilities are endless with .. not just for ourselves. But for growers all across the country. People can forge this food in places where nothing is being produced,” says Kelly.

He has worked with other business like Just Bee, Poke Shake, and Hopscotch Bakery. An upcoming collab with Tely Organics in Urbana is next on his list. Lexi Atkins is the owner and founder of this organic café. She says she wanted to work with Kelly ever since she heard about autumn berry. They want to create an organic sweetener using the fruit.  

“Dustin actually came in to show me all of his autumn berry creations and I even didn’t even know about the berries prior. That’s when I started researching at home. What is an autumn berry? What is this? This guy so cool,” says Atkins.

Kelly says when looking for wild food, be very careful.

“Whenever you forage for wild food it’s very important to recognize and identify the tree or plant properly. Also, never harvest a fruit or any plant from an unclean place.”

Berry-inspired products can be found all throughout Champaign and Urbana. You can get them from Harvest Market, the Red Herring, and the Common Ground Co-op.

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