Northern Vigor Berries Inc. is Saskatchewan based, dedicated to providing the best of science and nature in creating end products that meet the consumer need for enhanced health, beauty and vitality for themselves and their pets. Our mission is to bring you the highest quality products by following them from the orchard, to production, to market. We are passionate about the goodness of seabuckthorn berries, and do our best to retain the full nutritional value of seabuckthorn in everything we market.
Because of the high nutrient profile, in 1998, my Dad decided we would diversify our family farm by planting a seabuckthorn orchard. We were all there...my Father, my Mother, my brother, my two boys age 11 and 12 and myself, planting our first orchard. Learn More
My Mother would always be serving up some tea made with seabuckthorn leaves and my Dad would love to share his berries off the branch from our freezer with anyone who came to visit. He made a very large sign to stand in front of our orchard-- "Seabuckthorn-Vitamin C+". The gorgeous vibrant orange berries are unmistakable when passing by, and if any berries happen to be left on the trees in winter, they are a sight to behold against the white snow!
Our frozen berries first made their way into the restaurant industry. Chefs loved the tropical, tangy flavor that seabuckthorn berries offered to their traditional recipes. Since our first harvests, our offering has greatly expanded. Numerous products such as gelato, frozen berries, fruit leather, smoothie pops, apple cider and seabuckthorn vinegar, chocolates, spreads, syrups and tea leaves can be found on retail shelves.
Our naturally grown seabuckthorn shrubs provide superior value added ingredients due to 190 bioactive components. The oil is the best single source known to man for vitamin E, vitamin C, beta carotene, unsaturated fatty acids, essential amino acids and flavonoids. Oil is found in the skin, pulp and seed of the berry. Customers are appreciating the nutrient value they can easily incorporate into protein shakes, smoothies, yogurt or oatmeal by simply adding seabuckthorn berries!
We love all the consumer feedback that has indicated very positive results by using our products. I hope you will continue the story with us.
— Betty Forbes, President/CEO
Seabuckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) is a fascinating plant species. It is native to Europe and Asia and the berries, leaves and bark have been used for centuries. In ancient Greece, seabuckthorn was known as a remedy for horses. Leaves and young branches were added to the fodder. This resulted in rapid weight gain and a shiny coat for the horse. This, in fact, gave the name to the plant in Latin 'Hippo' - horse, 'phaos' - to shine. Ghengis Khan is said to have fed seabuckthorn berries to his army and the leaves to his horses to keep both healthy and strong in battle.
Seabuckthorn’s potential has attracted the attention of researchers from Asia, Europe and, recently, North America. In 1988, publication of the Chinese journal "Hippophae" was initiated. In 1989, the first international symposium on sea-buckthorn was held in Xian, China; in 1993, the second symposium was held in Novosibirsk, Siberia. A symposium was held in Quebec City, Province of Quebec, Canada in 2007. This is one that I attended and came to meet with scientists, processors and entrepreneurs from around the world. I followed this up with a seabuckthorn conference in India and one in Germany.
The nutritional and medicinal value of seabuckthorn have been known and exploited in Eurasia for centuries. The medicinal value of seabuckthorn was recorded in the Tibetan medical classic "'rGyud Bzi" in the eight century. It documents using seabuckthorn for fever, inflammation, toxicity, cough, colds, tumors and GI, blood and metabolic disorders. In Mongolia, extracts from the leaves and branches are used to treat colitis. In traditional Chinese medicine, seabuckthorn has been used to aid digestion and treat cough, circulatory problems and pain. In Russia where it is referred to as "Siberian pineapple", oils from the seeds and fruit have been used to treat eczema, psoriasis, burns, frostbite and cervical erosion. An antiviral drug called Hiporamin developed in Russia using the leaves of seabuckthorn have shown effective against viruses such as influenza virus strains A and B, herpes simplex type 1, adenovirus type 2 and HIV-1.
The seabuckthorn industry has been thriving in Russia since the 1940's when scientists there began investigating the biologically active substances found in the fruit, leaves and bark. The first Russian factory for seabuckthorn product development was located in Bisk. These products were utilized in the diet of Russian cosmonauts and as a cream for protection from cosmic radiation. The Chinese experience with seabuckthorn fruit production is more recent, although traditional uses date back many centuries. Research and plantation establishment were initiated in the 1980's. Since 1982 over 300 thousand hectares of seabuckthorn have been planted in China. In addition, 150 processing factories have been established producing over 200 products. The seabuckthorn based sports drinks "Shawikang" and "Jianibao" were designated the official drink for Chinese athletes attending the Seoul Olympic Games. Clinical trials have also been conducted in India where the leaves have been found to relieve the environmental stress and improve the recovery rate of the army working at higher elevations in the Himalayas. Because of the high antioxidant content of the leaves, they are not only used to make tea but in baking for their army.
A Canadian engineer was working in China where he noted an incredibly wide range of application for seabuckthorn. When his work in China was over, he came to Canada and traveled throughout the west with seabuckthorn seeds encouraging farmers to take on a new venture. He told of the great value of the mysterious plant and had meetings in many towns where growers could gather and learn the husbandry of such a crop.
The Prairie Farm Rehabilititation Administration (PFRA), Shelterbelt Center at Indian Head, Saskatchewan had introduced seabuckthorn throughout the Prairies in western Canada as a shelterbelt in the early 1950’s. But it wasn’t until this champion of the industry educated farmers about the benefits that there became a great movement to plant orchards of seabuckthorn.
With grower enthusiasm and joint work between the research center at Summerland, British Columbia and Indian Head, Saskatchewan, a new cultivar in Canada, 'Indian-Summer' was released. 'Indian-Summer' was well adapted to growing conditions on the Canadian prairies. It had been tested over 20 years in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and had performed well on a variety of soils including moderately saline sites. It showed above average drought tolerance and was fully hardy.
Today seabuckthorn is grown across Canada with a very strong association of growers being present in Quebec. Breeding programs to create larger, less thorny, sweeter varieties have created Harvest Moon, Prairie Sunset and Autumn Glow out of Indian Head. In Quebec new varieties have been brought in from Russia.
My step-father, George Strelioff caught the dream. He first planted a shelterbelt and then began planting a 15 acre orchard. My brother Gregory Patrick, my Mother and my sister Georgina came on board to help. My Dad and Mother, being very enterprising, erected a small greenhouse to propagate seabuckthorn from softwood cuttings. Everything was a learning process. My Dad continued to attend all training given by the PFRA on how to establish this orchard. My Mother, who always had the best garden I had ever seen in my life, decided to try to plant seabuckthorn seeds. To everyone’s amazement, 99.999999% came up!
In planting, my Dad had it all planned out. He cultivated the earth (characterized as being well drained, sandy loam) numerous times to get rid of all the weeds. Next year, he lay almost 10 miles of black plastic in rows where the transplants would be set. The planting began in 1998. The system was that someone would cut the plastic so that the shrubs would be spaced 1 m apart with some spots being left empty to fill in with extra female plants later (when planting shrubs, it was a gamble as to which shrubs were female and which were male….only female trees produced fruit and few males were needed to ensure that there was good fruit set). (As a further note, today one can put in an order for only female plants because of the tissue culture breeding program).
My brother used a drill like invention to pulverize the soil that the small plant would go in. I brought my boys Daniel and Jason, aged 11 and 12 to help. I remember a neighbor’s girl came as well. We did the meaningful stuff….we actually put plants into the ground and stomped the soil around to firm them in….then one of my sons ….it was Jason, was given the task of fertilizing…again, a new system had been invented to make it easy to fertilize one plant after the other….one person walking and the other pulling the tank of liquid fertilizer with a small garden tractor.
The rows were spaced adequately so that the weeds could be mowed between. Hand weeding was minimal around the shrubs. It was such a joy to see the greening of the new shrubs as they firmed their own way into the world.
A few years later, my Dad planted grass between all the rows. I remember his bill….it was GOOD grass.
In year 3, there were a few bright orange berries beginning to show. That winter was the first where one could observe the beautiful orange against the dazzling white background of the snow. Neighbors would stop to ask what it was.
The father of invention, my Dad, took a mower and lifted it so that he could drive along with the tractor and cut the tops of the seabuckthorn shrubs off. This pruning was important to keep the berries (which grew on second year growth) at a height where you could reach them and to allow sunlight into the tree which set the stage for a great yield of berries. My brother and father often walked the rows pruning branches from the centre of the trees to allow for the sunlight and cutting lower branches to allow the mower to travel underneath and to keep the berries from hanging on the ground.
No herbicides or pesticides were used on the acres. In fact, the Prairies offer a pristine environment for seabuckthorn…no factories within thousands of miles of our orchards; our soil is free of heavy metals.
There was no market for seabuckthorn in Canada initially…the seabuckthorn crusader passed on before his processing plant materialized and seabuckthorn associations in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba were left to market their bounty.
In 2005, my Dad said he was going to plough everything up….it could have been just the culmination of everything. In 2003, he lost his life partner and the next year, his daughter. Although he had 5 freezers full of picked berries, marketing efforts of the associations had not been successful. I asked my Father not to plough things under and asked him to let me see what I could do. I harvested a small amount of berries in 2007-2008.
In 2008-2009, I convinced other growers throughout the west (who too, use no herbicides or pesticides) to harvest and had the berries shipped to Saskatoon for storage. My harvesting crew performed a winter harvest for other growers in Saskatchewan as well. A number of growers were glad to have their crops harvested for the first time! It was a tremendous learning curve for all….how to cut, when to harvest, how to clean, how to transport, how to store…. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) was helpful in educating on what needed to be done.
I started marketing at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, educating the public on the nutritional value of the berries and the leaves. I then began to bring in value-added products so that people could see how to use them. With the help of the Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba (with strict HAACP standards), value-added products have been created including a fruit leather, a juice, a dried powder and super-critically extracted oil.
The berries have been used to increase the health benefits of dog and cat foods. They have gone to horses to prevent ulcers.
Chefs have delighted in the novel dishes that can be created from the berry. My favorite is the seabuckthorn gelato. It is absolutely delicious!
I kept the business name of Northern Vigor Berries to honor my father, but felt that the brand name should come to mean more and chose ‘nvigorate’ (pronounced ‘invigorate’) to stand for how you should feel after using the berries. The logo includes three berries, one yellow, one red and one orange. Although most of the berries in our orchard are orange, we also have red and yellow. Being that I used to be a mathematics teacher, I needed to incorporate the infinity sign in nvigorate to stand for the longevity of the brand.
I have now expanded and planted a larger orchard, so each fall we harvest from two orchards.
We harvest in the fall. Our plants are truly seabuckthorn. The thorns are about 1 ¼” long. The berries could be pulled off the branches….very carefully, but they often mush that way because they are so close to the stem….so, instead, we prune the tree. We cut the branches with the berries on them. We take about 60% of the berries off this way. The branches are immediately put into a reefer in frozen storage. This not only does well to preserve the nutritional value of the berries, but at -30 degrees C the berries can easily be knocked off the branches.
Seabuckthorn Days is a fundraiser that supports Canadian Mental Health. Pop Up Kitchens, certificate training, sampling, Chefs’ Cook-Offs, educational seminars, silent auction and general fun for the whole family have been highlights of the event.
Well that’s a wrap!
Saskatchewan Business Magazine, March 2015, PRAIRIE ORANGES by Cassi Smith
Abundance: The Official Publication of Sask Organics, Issue 09, Fall 2018, Seabuckthorn:
Organic prairie berries packing a super-nutritional punch by Mackenzie Kulcsár
The 2016 Prairie Garden, pg. 56 Superfood Seabuckthorn by Betty Forbes
WhoLife Magazine, Aug, 2018. Superfruit Seabuckthorn
Flat Out Delicious: Your Definitive Guide to Saskatchewan's Food Artisans, Apr. 28, 2020
by Jenn Sharp