Ancient Healing Herb Finds Popularity in Missouri

By Nancy Smith, secretary, Farm to Family Naturally

For most of my life, I have been using elderberries as a source of healing for my family. Elderberries have a very long tradition in folk medicine, and they are readily available in Missouri, so I gathered them from the fencerows on our farm.

But nowadays, with more good scientific information about elderberries, we know that much of their potency comes from an unusually high amount of anthocyanins, the same compounds that make blueberries so good for us.  Demand for elderberry products is at a new high, and Missouri producers are learning how to grow them and make healthy juices, extracts, cordials, syrups and even elderberry jelly.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture is way ahead of the curve in encouraging our Missouri farmers to diversify by adding a crop of elderberries. Elderberries are easy-to-grow, beautiful, and can be made into a variety of products that add value to the crop. The main drawback of elderberry production is that the berries are very small, and have to be picked by hand and removed from the tiny stems before they can be processed. Some small family farms have just the right resources to make a success of that type of venture, and Missouri now has more elderberry producers than any other state. Most of the elderberry products sold in the United States are from Europe, where elderberries are held in high esteem. We can thank European scientific studies for much of what we know about the healing qualities of the berries, too.

It was just about 2 years ago when Sappington Farmers Market decided to take the plunge and help support this burgeoning small farm industry. We began in a small way, with a variety of products from River Hills Harvest, owned by small farmer Terry Durham. The sparkling purple products were lined up on our end-caps near the cash registers and they quickly flew off the shelves. Many reorders followed, and satisfied customers reported great results, especially when they used the juice or extract as an immune-system builder for their children. The Elderberry Throat Coat Health Cordial was reported to be very helpful in the case of dry or sore throats, as well.

As more farmers learn how to grow and process this Missouri product, we continue to add elderberry juices to our shelves.  We recently purchased Sano Springs Elderberry Juice from Joe Wilson, a small farmer from Nevada, MO, who is diversifying his farm operation.  Joe has already learned that specialty crops can help him to make a success of his farm operation. He has a long history with the Northern Missouri Pecan Growers Association, and has seen the tremendous demand for Missouri products continue to grow. His sparkling purple juices have joined those from River Hills Harvest, giving our customers even more choices of a Missouri crop with great healing potential.

Sappington Farmers Market is located at 8400 Watson Road, between Elm Ave.and LacledeStation Road.