How 2020 turned me into an Elderberry Farmer

kerry brock

How 2020 turned me into an Elderberry Farmer

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In March of 2020, I sold more ounces of elderberry tincture in that one month than I had ever sold in the entire lifetime of my selling tinctures (Most likely even more than the combined ounces of Elderberry tincture that Shawnee Moon has sold since it’s founding in 1993 by Victoria).

It just so happened that Elderberry was the ‘herb darling’ for that time, and is still enjoying some fanfare 2 years later. Victoria mentioned this phenomenon in the pop-culture of the herb world way back in early 20-teens. Every year or so, the media latches on to an herb and it is the buzz-word. It trends and goes viral, as randomly as any other viral trend does.

While it’s tempting to get excited about the passing popularity of the herb-hype of the year, watch out for the ‘sensationalized’ information, or the people who make broad-stroke claims like some herb being a panacea (cure-all). I see it all the time and get all the questions. In years past it was St. John’s wort, then Turmeric, Copieba, then Echineacea, now Elderberry.

Back to March 2020. I sold out, fast, of all my elderberry tincture. I made all the remaining dehydrated elderberries I had in my bulk herb stock into tincture, and filled all my back orders. I went to order dry elderberries from my regular suppliers, and ope! Guess what? They were out of stock, too.

I took to the woods that summer searching for elderberry bushes that I knew grew wild on my parents land. I found some! I was able to harvest about a quart and a half of dehydrated berries. That filled a few more back orders then held Shawnee Moon over through that winter, barely.

I knew I needed to cultivate more bushes if I was going to be self-sufficient for my elderberry needs. I took a couple cuttings that fall and attempted to over winter them inside my house with no knowledge or research at all on how to do it. (read: Don’t do it this way) By spring 2021 I had one pathetic plant I was nursing inside. I took probably around 50-65 cuttings late March of 2021. These grew lots of leaves then all but 5 died. I hardened them off with the one from the year before (that just means gradually introducing them to outdoor elements), and planted them in my yard in a prepared bed late summer 2021. The deer started after them (ate ALL the leaves!) so I put up a chicken wire fence to protect them, and they all grew new leaves. (These plants are featured in a reel on my instagram page)

Last fall and this winter I’ve been doing more research. I got a book called The Self-Sufficient Herbalist by Lucy Jones which has been so encouraging to slowly, but surly, keep making strides to be more self-sufficient and how. I also found River Hills Harvest via YouTube, a Missouri Elderberry grower who shares LOTS of helpful info for growing, harvesting, pruning, inter-planting, weed control, fertilizing, etc.

This January, 2022, I pruned back all the canes of our older, wild stand of Elderberry bushes. I took close to 200 cuttings and I’ve been experimenting with what works best (in cups of water, in soil, pinching back leaves, fertilizer, etc). I’ve found it easiest to post quick updates on my Shawnee Moon fb group, but wanted to share some of the progress here too.

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Mistake #1: I cut these too short. If you do this, make sure you have 2 sets of leaf nodes on your cuttings! I would have had half as many cuttings, but likely double the success rate and been further along in the growth of roots. 1/13/22
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Elderberry cuttings in water and soil. I let them each set in a bit of diluted liquid root hormone before putting them in their long-term spots.
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Progress. 2/5/22
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2/11/22
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The three canes I actually cut with 2 sets of leaf nodes looked like this. Already had great roots growing! These I potted up. This is why next time I will 100% cut with 2 sets. The white ‘dots’ on the lower stem ‘should’ push roots out eventually on the others; it’s just much slower and the leaves could die before it takes root, leading to lower success.

Through lots of time, trial and error, planning and preparing, I’m becoming a bit more self-sufficient. At least on the Elderberry front here for Shawnee Moon. I’m becoming an Elderberry farmer! It definitely doesn’t happen over night, and I’m not getting it all right the first time, but I’m not giving up, either.

Products that contain elderberry personally harvested and processed by my own hands: Elderberry Tincture, Olive Leaf Plus, Eld-O-Leaf, Olive Leaf Plus Ointment.

Check out the FB group for more photos and updates. Next project was working on expanding the beds to plant more plants in the front/side yard. Hope to share that process here as well. Let me know what you think! We are under a bout 2 inches of ice pellets here in SE Missouri today. Hope you are staying warm wherever you are!

Blessings in Christ, Kerry

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