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Made in the Ozarks: Elder Farm LLC

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At a 131-year-old farm in rural Mount Vernon, a new crop is sprouting: elderberry.

At 40 acres and growing, Elder Farm LLC’s owners said it is one of the largest elderberry farms in the country. Its products, like the staple elderberry immune syrup, are sold statewide and into northwest Arkansas.

As the company ramps up production of hemp and partners with other local growers, it’s seeking to cultivate this new industry for the Ozarks.

SBJ: What are your core products?
Kyler Brown: We try to focus on more than just the berries. We have products that utilize the flowers and then also the elder leaves as a topical skin line. We have an elderberry immune syrup. We have a fermented elderberry honey. We have an elder flower-infused honey and our CBD lines, we have CBD tinctures that are actually elderberry infused. We have CBD-infused elderberry syrup, so very niche kind of fusions. The commercial industry for elderberries really has exploded in the last few years. About 95% of all elderberry products that you’re going to find in America are from imported European elderberry. Europe as a whole has grown about 30,000 acres. In America, we’re only growing 1,500 acres, of which 500 are in Missouri. Missouri is the elderberry capital of the country.

SBJ: What is elderberry used for?
John Wiley: For thousands of years, people have used it for immune support. Now they’ve gotten into the science of it and found that it’s much more than just an antiviral, antibacterial. People use it to also reduce their blood sugar levels and lower their (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. It has also been proven that it can help to regulate blood pressure. They’re a great skin anti-irritant. It’s an antihistamine.

SBJ: You’ve started with 40 acres of elderberries. What’s next on the farm?
David Buehler: We’re going to continue to expand the elderberry and the hemp production. We hope to have about 10 acres of hemp with indoor growing facilities. We are not only growing for ourselves, but we are setting up contracts with (other farmers) to buy back the berries from them once they become mature. Profits per acre after about three to four years are about $10,000-$15,000 per acre. We are really trying hard to establish a nutraceutical industry here in southwest Missouri where dairy farmers, or other types of farmers, can grow an alternative crop and sustain themselves. Everything we make that week is sold that week. We can’t grow enough ourselves.

SBJ: What has it meant for you to keep the family farm thriving?
Buehler: We knew that if we were going to survive and really thrive as we go forward, we’d have to do something completely different. Agriculture today is at a crossroads. We have more farmers going bankrupt now than we ever had. With some of these nutraceutical crops … there’s a huge profit potential in it with not only helping people’s health but also sustaining the farmers.

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