APQS Quilting Company employees join Andrew Pittz as he prepares to plant aronia seedlings.  Pittz wanted to plant the bush at APQS to give back for some of the employees helping fix his car two years ago.
APQS Quilting Company employees join Andrew Pittz as he prepares to plant aronia seedlings. Pittz wanted to plant the bush at APQS to give back for some of the employees helping fix his car two years ago.
June 14, 2013



It's a bird, it's a plane. No, wait, it's actually a berry - and a super one at that.

Carroll gained a new plant this week - the aronia bush, which grows the aronia berry, a superfruit.

Andrew Pittz is a second-generation aronia farmer, and this week, he brought his family's unique fruit to Carroll.

Pittz planted the bush on property of APQS Quilting Co. on the east edge of town.

"Carroll's been a big part of our success in rural business," Pittz said.

The Hy-Vee in Carroll was one of the first to begin selling the family's product, and Pittz has fond memories of the businesses here - especially APQS, which helped fix his car after he lost fender on the road two years ago.

The planting was a part of Iowa's Healthiest State Initiative 99 County Tour, the goal being to plant an aronia bush in every county.

"I think it's important when you're a part of a state, something bigger than yourself, to give back," Pittz said. "The whole tour has been about sharing successes and growing."

Pittz said a big part of the tour is fostering communication across the state in order to grow and strengthen ties among small businesses.

"There are so many stories from these communities," Pittz said. "All these stories begin to add up."

The Pittz family farm - Sawmill Hollow in Missouri Valley - was the first farm to begin cultivating aronia berries in North America. The farm brought the superfruit off of the U.S. Department of Agriculture endangered plants list and will begin distributing nationally next week.

Aronia berries are native North American fruits that, according to the USDA, have the highest antioxidant content in the world.

The fruit can be used to make a variety of products, from wine and jelly to coffee and steak sauce. Several of these products created with Sawmill Hollow aronias are sold at hometown shops and Hy-Vee grocery stores across the state.

Along the tour, Gov. Terry Branstad declared September to be Aronia Berry Month.

According to a Sawmill Hollow news release, Branstad said, "The Iowa Healthiest State Initiative sets out to make our state the healthiest in the nation by 2016. In the last year we have moved from the top 20 to the top 10 with farmers like Andrew Pittz of Sawmill Hollow, the aronia berry, and these great public-private partnerships."