Minnesota Elderberry Cooperative

Our web site provides specific content relevant to our cooperative's members and those interested in our mission. We do so within a context of general information about the cultivation and health benefits of North American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis). Our cooperative is in process of formation at this time with a steering committee made up of growers participating in the growth and development of elderberry cultivation and sale of elderberry products in the upper Midwest.  

MEC has just recently begun to solicit members due to the completion of a positive Feasibility Study. Work on a formal business plan has begun with the help of an additional Value Added Grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. This business plan will guide us in forming our initial cooperative membership-management structure as well as our initial elder berry and flower commercial operations.

On September 11, 2012, the Minnesota Secretary of State has issued a Certificate of Organization to Minnesota Elderberry Cooperative under Chapter 308B. MEC anticipates the establishment of two classes of members: growers and investors. With the advisement of the steering committee, MEC directors actively seek grants independently and in association with Coop Development Services in order to explore the most feasible cooperative structure and shared production and/or commercial activities to the benefit of our growers, our potential commercial partners and the general public. 

We also actively work to facilitate scientific research by Midwest universities and institutes on North American elderberry cultivation, processing and neutraceutical potential. We recognize the University of Missouri's early leadership and hope to see the expansion on their research by other universities on elderberry, especially on our native varieties of Sambucus canadensis.

MEC in one of several informally networked grower and product production organizations working jointly toward an eventual co-op of elderberry cooperatives. We expect to share our progress with those adhering to similar goals and principles in other states. Currently, we regularly interact with River Hills Elderberry Producers (River Hills Harvest brand) active in Missouri and the Midwest.

cjp-head.jpg

The successful development of networked elderberry gorwer cooperatives will likely include the production and marketing of quality, certified organic ingredient elderberry products such as juice, flowers and frozen berries in various raw material and retail products. ideally, retail outlets will establish relationships with local elderberry farmers who will become the local faces of MEC (and perhaps RHH) to each store’s customers. Individual grower specialty product development is encouraged.

Christopher J. Patton of Natural Kick Farms is a Founding Director and the current Chairman of MEC's Board. As Natural Kick Farms, he grows elderberry in partnership with Paul Otten at Natura Farms in MN. Separately, Patton markets River Hills Harvest (RHH) brand premium pure elderberry juice products throughout the USA as River Hills Harvest Marketers, LLC and serves as this site’s webmaster. 

Flowers Vertical-300.jpg

North American Sambucus canadensis

The stunning, aromatic flower clusters and mildly sweet fruit of elderberry have been treasured for thousands of years. The dark purple berries have more vitamin C than oranges, and they are a great source of antioxidants like flavonoids — mainly anthocyanins, as well as quercetin, which functions as a cellular level anti-inflammatory.

More nutrient dense than most other berries, elderberry juice and extracts have been used to treat the common cold, flu, diabetes and even some forms of cancer. Compare some of the US Department of Agriculture’s data displayed in the table below right.

Until recently, about 90% of all elderberry ingredients were imported. European elderberry juice comes from that continent’s native species, Sambucus nigra, and is almost always concentrated. In the process of removing the water, the juice loses much of its desired properties. Also, imported elderberry juice products are usually pasteurized or contain added potassium sorbate as a preservative.

These facts, among others, have encouraged the North American cultivation of various regional varieties in order to provide more nutrients at lower cost. Commercial elderberry cultivation is becoming a vital part of sustainable agriculture in North America, and the number of acres dedicated to elderberry cultivation is growing.

A growing number of North American food processors use Sambucus canadensis berries, primarily sourced from the Midwest. For example, River Hills Harvest elderberry juice products do not concentrate or dilute their juice with water. River Hills Harvest cool processes elderberry juice at 180°F, so the juice tastes better and retains more nutrient vitality. River Hills Harvest products are always sustainably grown and use fruit acid or Vitamin C as the only specifically added ingredient. Their products are sold through a growing network of local food cooperatives and grocery stores that focus on quality natural or organic, locally grown and processed foods and juices. 

Wild elderberry plants are often found along roadsides, forest edges and abandoned fields. Elderberry leaves, branches, stems, roots and seeds contain glycosides giving them a bitter taste that discourages pests. The body metabolizes these parts of the plant converting them into toxic cyanides; therefore, our methods of harvest and processing are careful to remove everything but the berries.

Europeans make syrups and cordials from elderberry flowers as well as the berries. Some even coat stemless flower umbrels with batter and fry them served topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar as desert.

© Minnesota Elderberry Cooperative 2014