Growing Elderberries | Living the Country Life

Growing Elderberries

Elderberries could be the new “it” farm commodity. There’s a huge demand for the fruit and more growers are needed.
Photo credit University of Minnesota

Need some background income from your land? Make money growing elderberries on as little as an acre. Native elderberries grow wild in the United States and have been treasured for their anti-viral and anti-inflammation properties for thousands of years. The health benefits coupled with improved cultivars that are showing consistent yields and quality, are getting growers interested in it as an alternative crop. The demand for elderberry products is skyrocketing, but there aren’t enough commercial growers.

Alan Helland is the manager of River Hills Harvest in Hartsburg, Missouri.  He says in 2018, contracting farmers made on average about $8,000 per acre. The plant is a multi-stemmed shrub that will grow almost anywhere. It doesn’t require a lot of expensive machinery or inputs.

"We actually produce by a prima cane culture so we cut to the ground and do fruit and flower on new stems each year. That interrupts a couple disease cycles," says Helland. "Even conventionally, growing elderberry is a low-spray operation, it’s very rare that pests build up. The hardest one is Drosophila, the new invasive fruit fly. That one’s kind of a pain."

Helland says you can buy elderberry plants in a nursery, but for a commercial operation it’s much cheaper to get them as cuttings.

"We can sell you a cutting for $2-$3 depending on the variety. If you’re putting out a high-density planting on an acre, you’re talking about 1700 plants, or cuttings," he says. "As long as they stay moist, straight dormant wood cuttings, you probably have at least an 80%-85% success rate in the field."

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