HARTSBURG — A fruit that grows wild across the state is becoming increasingly popular and joining pomegranates and açai berries in the “super fruit” category.
“An elderberry is a simple food," said Terry Durham, a farmer at River Hills Harvest, an elderberry farm in Hartsburg. "It’s a whole food. It has great health benefits, so it’s kind of a perfect fit for what people want right now. We’re moving away from pills and capsules for our health, and we want to get it in a drink. We want a functional food that also gives us our health benefits.”
River Hills uses a system of growing elderberries that is different from most other farmers by planting them in rows of bushes as opposed to trees. The farm makes three products with its crop: elderberry juice, jelly and throat coat.
Durham said many customers’ favorite is the pure, not-from-concentrate, 100 percent elderberry juice.
“We’re one of the very few people that produce it,” Durham said. “We really never found anyone else that has a pure, not-from-concentrate elderberry juice, and we’re proud of that.”
Durham said elderberries are native to every state with the exception of Hawaii, and River Hills is one of the largest elderberry farms in America.
“They grow super well right here in the Midwest in our deep, fertile soil,” he said. “We have an excellent climate for them.”
Durham said the public’s heightened need for awareness of the origins of their food has increased respect for the farming lifestyle.
“It gives you a real unalienated type of existence when you grow something,” he said. “You get to watch it and nurture it through the process, and it's all yours.”