Have you ever heard of elderberries? There’s a small business in BC where they’re growing their own elderberries and pressing them into delicious, healthy products unlike anything else in the market.
Small Business BC spoke with Louise Lecouffe, who runs Elderberry Grove Farm in Salmon Arm, with her partner Jed Wiebe to learn more about how they became elderberry farmers and what it’s like to have a business dictated by the seasons.
Journey to Becoming Elderberry Farmers
Their journey to becoming elderberry farmers started seven years ago. The pair have always shared a love of food, including wild foraging. One autumn, they picked wild elderberries and made a shrub, a non-alcoholic vinegary fruit syrup, that they drank all winter.
Elderberry has a long history of being used as folk medicine, and Louise, who usually experienced a lingering cold during the winter, felt great after using it. According to WebMD, elderberry syrup is known as a “powerful cold preventative and remedy.” After this positive experience with elderberries, Louise and Jed wanted to learn more and see where this new interest could take them.
Becoming Business Owners
After they had the idea and did some research to show it could be a viable business, they joined Launch-A-Preneur, a three-month-long training program and Dragon’s Den-style entrepreneurship competition. “We realized nothing was being grown locally, and what we saw in the health food store was imported,” said Louise.
They got training, they pitched their business idea to judges, and got a boost from their community. “They just made us feel supported,” said Louise. They continued to grow their business by getting mentorship, attending conferences, and sharing organic farming knowledge with their community.
Living with the Seasons
The elderberries help Louise and her partner live closely attuned to the seasons. In the summer, they pick elderberry flowers. Then, they care for the elderberries as they start to ripen into the fall. Then, they harvest them, pressing and bottling juice.
In the winter, while the plants are dormant, they harvest and ship the cuttings so people can grow their own bushes. Before long, it’s spring, and they have to take care of the plants and keep them healthy so that they flower in the summer. “That’s sort of the cycle of our lives, and we feel grateful to be alive,” said Louise.
“We hear from people a lot that our fresh elderberry is really unique,” said Louise. “And the flavour is so good that a whole family likes to take it,” she said. It’s not just medicine. It’s also delicious food, whether you’re mixing a mocktail with elderberry juice or adding elderberry syrup to a gin and tonic.
Today, they sell a plethora of elderberry products, from juices and syrups to frozen berries and cuttings for growing your own elderberries, furthering Louise’s spirit of collaboration over competition.
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